Hepatitis C virus infections in the United States tripled between 2010 and 2015. There were 850 reported infections in 2010, but that number climbed to 2,436 by 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the highest rates of infection were among people between 20 and 29 years of age, many of them abusers of intravenous drugs.
An estimated total of 3.5 million people in the United States are currently infected with the virus. The symptoms can include liver damage, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice and joint pain.
CDC research has attributed this increase in cases to the US opioid epidemic. The newest Hepatitis C patients are commonly young people who have transitioned from using prescription opioids to heroin, transmitting the virus from person to person via shared needles.
As long as people switch from pills to heroin, this growth will continue. According to the CDC, the best way to avoid becoming infected with Hepatitis C is to abstain from using heroin.