The nonprofit Massachusetts Health Council recently released its biennial report on health trends in Massachusetts, “Common Health for the Commonwealth,” and has taken Cape Cod to task for its numerous public health issues, including high youth rates of hepatitis C.
“The focus is on prevention and wellness,” explained the Massachusetts Health Council’s executive director Susan H. Servais.
According to the report, Barnstable County has a rate of 519 confirmed and probable cases of hepatitis C per 100,000 people among 15 to 25-year-olds, which means it has the highest rate of hepatitis C cases among the demographic in the state. Additionally, the number of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Bourne — a town within Barnstable County — more than doubled between the five year period between 2003 and 2007 and from 2008 to 2012.
“It’s not surprising that opiate overdoses and hepatitis C are both on the list because they are so related,” explained Duffy Health Center CEO Heidi Nelson. She also noted that the liver-destroying sickness “is more prevalent among IV drug users.”
After all, drug users can contract hepatitis from the different sorts of paraphernalia, like needles, syringes, cookers, and even contaminated cotton. According to estimates from the World Health Organization, contaminated syringes caused about two million hepatitis C infections in 2000 alone. However, drug use is the only reason there’s such a high rate of hepatitis C on Cape Cod. The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod and the state Department of Public Health also work together to screen for the disease. The agencies’ workers go to treatment centers, methadone clinics, and jails to talk to people there about getting tested. They’re going out looking for cases, and finding them.
Cape Cod Healthcare’s laboratory uses an electronic record system, so the reporting is accurate and thorough. It immediately sends information about hepatitis cases directly to the state. What’s more, Valerie Al-Hachem, manager and grants administrator for Infectious Disease Clinical Services at Cape Cod Healthcare says that the Cape Cod population is older.
“Anything seen among a younger population is going to get skewed.”