Study shows Hepatitis C virus rate growing in the U.S.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that damages the liver

(AP Photo/Rick Callahan)

(CNN) – New studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Hepatitis C infection rates are soaring across the U.S.

New Hepatitis C infections nearly tripled in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015, according to a report released Thursday by the CDC.

The report blamed injection drug use linked to the opioid epidemic for the soaring number of new Hepatitis C cases.

The highest rates were reported among young people, mainly 20 to 29 year olds, who use intravenous drugs. The CDC found that the number of new Hepatitis C infections rose from 850 in 2010 to 2,436 in 2015.

Another CDC study released Thursday, found that rates of new Hepatitis C infections among pregnant women nearly doubled. They increased 89 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that damages the liver. An estimated 3.5 million American adults have it. It can be spread through sexual contact or passed from mother to child during pregnancy. But since the early 1990s, Hepatitis C has primarily been spread through shared needles.

The study’s author said the best way to reduce the risk of new Hepatitis C infections is to give IV drug users access to services that prevent and treat the virus.