INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night unanimously approved a syringe exchange program for Marion County after a surge in hepatitis C cases.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, joined others at a news conference May 17 to announce they would seek the syringe exchange. She cited a 1,000 percent increase in cases of hepatitis C from 2013 to 2017. Marion County averages less than five cases a year, but Caine said 72 cases were confirmed last year and many more cases likely were undiagnosed.
Caine called it a public health epidemic.
“Hepatitis is primarily through the spread of contaminated needles, sharing of needles or contaminated blood,” she said in May. “It’s not the only answer, but it’s a critical tool.”
The program would include HIV and hepatitis C screenings, referrals to mental health and drug addiction treatment, and education literature.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus. It can lead to liver failure and liver cancer and can be deadly.