Suburban Heroin Use Linked to Hepatitis C Cluster in Princeton, NJ

OCTOBER 08, 2015
Gale Scott
Young suburban heroin users who were admitted recently to a Princeton, NJ drug rehab facility showed an unexpectedly high incidence of hepatitis C infection.

Reporting Oct. 7 in an abstract presented at ID Week 2015 in San Diego, CA. Ronald Nahass, MD of Rutgers University and Mark Schwartz, MD of University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro said the patients were admitted  from October 2014 through March 2015.  The cases were discovered as part of routine screening for Hep C in patients admitted to the center.

Of 173 such patients tested, 45% were positive for the Hep C virus. Of them, 157 were white, 73 were women, and 82 were men. The median age was 30.

Of genotypes obtained in 64 patients, 70% were type 1a.

Only 3 patients of 9 who returned for hepatitis treatment are currently receiving it. "Linkage to care was difficult," the team reported. 

They concluded that despite not being identified earlier as a region seeing drug-related Hep C infection, "NJ is participating in the  second wave of hepatitis C virus." Further, they found that the patients had a higher incidence of genotype 3 (19%) than was expected "for reasons that are unclear." 

There was a complete absence of HIV infection in the group, even though NJ has a high prevalence of HIV infection. They expressed concern that this young suburban heroin user group could soon see an increase in HIV as well. 

The authors said they need "additional resources to help with care navigation" to try to get these patients into antiviral treatment and prophylaxis. 

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