Locally, the disease usually spreads when drug users share the same needle. There have been instances when one needle has been shared among 10 people, Enigk said. But this does not mean the sharing happens all at once; it occurs over time.
“Say they go to John Doe’s place to get their drugs. Ten people who go there over in a week’s time share the same needle,” she explained.
Another statistic makes hepatitis especially tragic. The average range of patients’ ages go from 20- to 32-years-old.
“It’s just sad,” Enigk said. “We’re talking about people having years of their lives ahead of them. At a very young age people just put their lives at risk. It’s very depressing how many young people come in.”
Patients can be treated with a 48-week program using two anti-viral drugs, one injected weekly and one taken orally four to six times a day. The treatment is not a cure, but it can cause the virus to go into remission, Enigk said. There has been some success.
Some people respond well to treatment; their own immune systems fight off the disease. Those who stop using drugs and alcohol increase their chances for recovery; the ones who do best never used drugs or alcohol at all, she said.
Patients are advised to keep their families safe by never sharing toothbrushes or razors; any blood from bleeding gums or shaving nicks can carry the hepatitis virus. It is not a virus that is passed easily by causal contact, but it can live outside the human body for three days or 72 hours.
“That’s not from touching a door knob. It’s body fluid to body fluid, blood to blood,” Enigk said.
Anyone with the following risks should consult a physician about being tested for hepatitis B and C: Used blood transfusions, blood products or had an organ transplant before July 1992; ever used IV drugs; ever shared a crack or meth pipe, or anything else to snort drugs; have HIV; have any tattoos or body piercings; have come into contact with the blood of an infected person.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com