No One Could Have Predicted Closing a Needle Exchange Would Cause a Hepatitis C Outbreak

Actually, everyone would have predicted this (boldface mine):

A new case of hepatitis C was reported nearly every eight hours in Kanawha County [West Virginia] last year.

The number of men and women diagnosed in 2018 with the infectious disease soared in the months after the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department closed its public syringe exchange earlier that same year.

Hepatitis C, a virus that can lead to liver cancer or early death if left untreated, is commonly contracted through sharing needles.

New data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources revealed 1,114 newly reported chronic hepatitis C cases in 2018. It’s the highest number of chronic hepatitis C cases reported in the past five years in West Virginia’s largest county.

When it comes to needle exchange, too many people are still moralizing about the problem. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t care about your moral qualms:

These diseases almost never stay in the high-risk group but are transmitted to people who do not use drugs through intimate contact, including sexual contact,” he said.

Tierney, who screens and treats patients for hepatitis C, said she “identified a number of patients who were hep C positive who have not used drugs a day in their life.”

The blood-borne virus, she said, can be passed through using someone else’s razor, finger nail clippers or toothbrush.

The other thing that hurts needle exchanges is that non-IV drug users usually don’t want drug users or their discarded paraphernalia in their neighborhoods, so these facilities often are teetering on the edge of extinction. Shutting these facilities down is also foolish in terms of long-term costs: it’s really expensive to treat liver disease or cancer. Hopefully, the Democratic candidates* will start talking about needle exchange in their plans**–that’s what a good healthcare system, as opposed to a healthcare insurance system, would have.

*Needless to say, Republicans won’t do a fucking thing.

**Probably not for the best to discuss it too much, as celebrity journalists would get very stupid about it, and then more people will get sick and die.

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