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Higher hepatitis rates with injected drugs

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U.S. researchers reported people who inject illegal drugs are 50 times more likely to contract hepatitis C than those who inhale the substances.

The study, in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of The New York Academy of Medicine, said most injection drug users begin by sniffing heroin, crack or cocaine so preventing them from moving to injection drugs is a key to controlling the spread of hepatitis C.

Study author David Vlahov, director of the Academy Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies in New York, said: The best protection against hepatitis C is to not use drugs. But short of stopping drug use entirely, avoiding injection is probably the simplest and most effective way to substantially reduce hepatitis C risk.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection that can cause liver disease, cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. It is estimated more than 60 percent of people who inject illegal drugs are infected with hepatitis C, compared to an estimated 5 percent of non-injection drug users.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International


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