Monroe County declares public health emergency following Hepatitis C outbreak

(WISH Photo)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — A public health emergency has been declared for people living in Monroe County after a growing number of Hepatitis C cases.

Other counties, such as Madison and Scott, have seen similar problems and already have needle exchange programs in place.

Local officials are moving forward on a similar plan for Clark County.

The Monroe County Health Department said the number of cases for Hepatitis C has gone up more than 50 percent within the last five years.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners will have to approve the declaration next month, and if they do, Monroe County will also have a syringe exchange program.

As hundreds of students prepare to move into the dorms at Indiana University on Wednesday evening, health officials in Monroe County are hoping to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C in the community.

“I guess that takes care of the problem in a way, but that doesn’t really attack the problem at the base. That just takes care of some of the technicality that happened with that sort of lifestyle,” said Chad Evans, who is helping his son move into campus.

Monroe County is the latest to declare a public health emergency.

“It definitely seems like a shame for the amount of drug use to becoming more regular not just in Monroe County, but I mean all across the country,” said freshman Jacob Bevins, Indiana University.

The new numbers across the county are alarming to Bevins.

According to the Monroe County Health Department, at least 68 percent of Hepatitis C cases come from injecting drugs.

The department said heroin overdoses are up over 50 percent in one year at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.

“During orientation, they offered a sort of performance thing to keep us updated on what we could do if we see situations like that,” said Bevins.

The IU Health Center provides resources for students to overcome addiction, but Dr. Diana Ebling told 24-Hour News 8 in a phone interview that the center hasn’t really seen an increase in cases on campus.

She said sometimes asking for help can be easier said than done.

“With the increase in Hepatitis C and the concern with HIV, they’re at risk if they continue to share needles,” said Dr. Ebling. “They may not be ready to accept help even though the program is available to them.”

A public hearing is scheduled for September 4tat 9:00 a.m. at 100 West Kirkwood Avenue in Bloomington.

The Board of Commissioners will get a chance to hear from the public. It will be up to the board to decide whether they will approve the declaration and move forward with the program.

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