(NBC News) A new report from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center finds a startling rise in the number of newborn babies at risk for Hepatitis C.
Infections among pregnant women have nearly doubled since 2009.
Doctors who specialize in caring for the sickest babies say the nation’s opioid epidemic is to blame.
“We know that using opioids – particularly injecting opioids – is the principal reason why people contract Hepatitis C virus,” says Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Stephen Patrick.
The study finds marked increases in rural areas of Tennessee and in West Virginia, where one in 50 babies are born exposed to Hepatitis C.
Newborns cannot be tested for Hepatitis C. They must be followed for 18 months until doctors can determine if they’ve been infected.
Some children have been known to clear the virus on their own. Others can start treatment for the virus around age 3.
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