Hepatitis C Outbreak in Wyoming - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Hepatitis C Outbreak in Wyoming

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POWELL, WYOMING -

Northern Wyoming is dealing with an outbreak of Hepatitis C.

KULR 8's Penny Preston was in Powell to find out what officials believe may be the cause.

Hepatitis C, an incurable and sometimes fatal disease which affects the liver, is on the rise in Powell and Cody Wyoming.

"The yellow line here are the Wyoming rates. They stayed pretty consistent. And the blue line are the Park County rates," says Ashley Grajczyk of the Wyoming Health Department.

The line goes off the chart. Wyoming Health Department representative Ashley Grajczyk says the number of cases in Park County tripled from 2011 to 2012. In 2012, they were double the state rate.

Furthermore, the disease is showing up primarily in people 30 years and younger. How is Hepatitis C transmitted from one person to another? In Park County, mostly injected drug use.

"We're talking about Hepatitis C here, but in reality it is at risk kids 15 to 30 who are doing all kinds of things maybe we don't want to acknowledge, or we know about, or don't know what to do about," says Bill Crampton, Park County Public Health.

The health officials pointed out the people who are getting the disease are most often uninsured, as well. So they asked the members of the Park County health coalition to help them find a doctor, hospital, or clinic that would take on the expensive testing and treatment.

They also discussed possible solutions, including clean needle exchanges, but that is illegal in Wyoming. Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric has long campaigned against prescription drug abuse and does not support clean needle exchanges.

"I'd say we're seeing more drug use. Certainly. Do we believe more people are injecting legal controlled substances, i.e. pills they obtain from physicians more? Yes, we believe that is happening," says Bryan Skoric, Park County Attorney. Skoric says doctors are prescribing too many pain killers. "In my opinion, the state's not doing enough to address that."

Skoric thinks the lawmakers should compel doctors to check patient records for doctor shopping. Until something changes here, drug abuse will have more than intended consequences. From Powell, Penny Preston, KULR 8 News.

Health officials also noted an increase in Hepatitis C cases in Natrona County, but chalked that up to better reporting.

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