Needles causing Hep C upsurge

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013

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Drug users sharing needles have been blamed for Taranaki having the highest rate of new hepatitis C cases in the country over the past year.

Three cases have been reported so far in 2013 and there were three last year.

Most of Taranaki's cases were drug users who shared needles, Medical Officer of Health Jonathan Jarman said.

"It is entirely preventable. I had a case in the past where a young university student caught it from sharing needles once at a party. That's all it took to catch it."

Hepatitis C could be a debilitating disease, he said.

Taranaki had a rate of 4.5 cases per 100,000 population between November 2012 and October 2013.

The national average for hepatitis C notifications for the same period was 1.1 cases.

Taranaki's rates went up and down a lot because there were only a small number of cases, Dr Jarman said.

Needle Exchange Taranaki Service (Nets) co-ordinator Garth Browning said anyone could go into Nets and swap their needles.

However, research had shown that people in South Taranaki needed additional services.

There was a pharmacy in Hawera and one in Stratford that exchanged needles, he said.

Talk to your doctor or phone the Hepatitis Foundation on 0800 332010.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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