Indiana state health officials confirmed the recent HIV epidemic in Scott County is worsening, the New York Times reports.
With reports of up to 130 cases in what has become the largest such outbreak in the southeastern portion of the state, officials say that the skyrocketing of these cases are linked to injections of the powerful painkiller Opana.
According to a statement from Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams, the increase in cases is due in part to an expanded capacity for testing potentially exposed individuals after the state received assistance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thus far, Indiana has reported 120 of the cases as confirmed, while 10 others are considered “preliminary positive” in numbers that were provided publicly last Friday. The outbreak was first reported near the end of February, with a tally of 26 cases and four preliminary cases. The numbers were gathered from officials in Clark, Jackson, Perry, Scott, and Washington counties.
While needle users who abused Opana made up a bulk of the cases, there are a few cases of HIV spread via sexual transmission as well. Prior to the newly released numbers, it was still the largest outbreak the region has ever seen.
Indiana is in the midst of a short-term needle-exchange program that Gov. Mike Pence approved on March 26. By way of a report from the Associated Press, the 30-day program ends on April 25, but a spokeswoman said Friday that Gov. Pence will review incoming data from health officials and may extend the program.
Under the program, 5,322 clean syringes have been distributed to 86 patients. Health officials report that around 1,400 used syringes have been returned in exchange.
Under normal circumstances, Scott County only reports around five HIV cases per year.
SOURCE: NYT | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty