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Hepatitis C in Pierce County by the Numbers
Hepatitis C cases are on the rise in our community. We have seen a big increase because of the opioid epidemic. Usually, hepatitis C infection is related to well known risk factors like injection drug use. In rare cases, our investigative work uncovers other sources. That happened recently when we learned of a hepatitis C exposure at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, where 2,761 patients may have been exposed to the virus.
So far from the hospital investigation, 1,065 people have been tested. We created a webpage where we will have weekly updates on test results from this outbreak. Here’s what the testing for hepatitis C shows so far:
- Two confirmed cases: Positive for hepatitis C and confirmed with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory testing.
- Seven probable cases: Positive for hepatitis C and under investigation awaiting CDC testing.
- Twelve cases under investigation: Positive cases still under investigation.
- The majority of the people tested from this outbreak were negative for hepatitis C—1,028.
Testing also uncovered 16 positive hepatitis C test results not related with the hospital outbreak. This is a good thing because these people who may not have otherwise gotten tested now know they have the virus and can get treatment.
To put these numbers in a broader context, Pierce County has 18 acute hepatitis C cases so far this year. This figure includes the confirmed and probable hepatitis C cases from the hospital outbreak. An acute case is when someone acquires a hepatitis C infection in the previous 12 months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total for the county may be the tip of the iceberg. The CDC estimates because so many people have the virus and don’t know it, the county most likely has nearly 14 times as many cases. That’s an estimated 250 people who have hepatitis C in Pierce County.
Many people with hepatitis C don’t know how they became infected. We encourage people with common risk factors to get tested. Hepatitis C is curable in almost everyone. Learn more about the risk factors and testing.