HIV outbreak in Indiana an ‘epidemic’

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The governor of Indiana in the US has declared a public health emergency after an HIV outbreak “reached epidemic proportions” in part of the state. BBC News reports that Scott County, a poor area where needle-sharing by drug users is common, has seen 79 new cases in recent weeks – up from an annual average of five.

Governor Mike Pence has authorised health officials to implement a needle exchange programme – a remedy he has opposed in the past. “Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” the governor said. “With additional state resources and new tools provided by this emergency declaration, I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”

The outbreak was first identified in late January. Since then, officials have diagnosed 79 people with the life-threatening virus – up from 26 cases just one month ago.

State epidemiologist Pam Pontones said almost all of the cases originated from illegal drug users sharing syringes. A large majority of the victims had shared a needle with an infected person while injecting Opana, a prescription painkiller. Officials expect the number of infections to rise, and are working to contact as many as 100 other people linked to those with confirmed cases.

Full BBC News report

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