Southeast Alaska has seen a nearly 500 percent increase in the rate of young adults with Hepatitis C in the last five years. Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the U.S. An estimated three and a half million people are infected in the U.S.

For many years it was mainly reported in older generations, the Baby Boomers, infected with blood transfusions and organ transplants done before blood screening became widespread in 1992. The infection can also be spread by sharing needles and intravenous drug use and health officials say that’s likely a factor in the spike in cases in adults age 18 to 29 in Alaska. Other parts of the state are also seeing a rise in young adults with Hep C, but Southeast has seen the biggest increase.

Joe Viechnicki spoke with public health nurse Erin Michael, Liz Bacom, the Petersburg Medical Center’s lab and imaging manager and visiting nursing student Cat Curtiss about the disease.
There’s more information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.