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Heroin epidemic pushing up hepatitis C infections in US

FILE - In this March 24, 2016 photo, a nurse for eastern Indiana's Fayette County holds one of the syringes provided to intravenous drug users taking part in the county's state-approved needle exchange program at the county courthouse in Connersville, Ind. The effort is in response to a hepatitis C outbreak among IV drug users. In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, May 11, 2017, hepatitis C infections have nearly tripled since 2010 _ an increase mainly due to the heroin epidemic. (AP Photo/Rick Callahan)

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. health officials say the heroin epidemic is driving up cases of hepatitis C.

The number of reported infections nearly tripled in five years to about 2,400 in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that the increase coincided with a surge in heroin use. The virus is mostly spread by sharing needles to inject drugs.

Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer and other problems. Most people don't get sick for many years after they are infected. So the CDC thinks the reported cases are only a fraction of actual infections. The health agency estimates new infections for 2015 at 34,000.

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Online:

CDC reports: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

AP-WF-05-11-17 1853GMT

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