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Indiana one of 7 states with higher than average Hepatitis C rates

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A new report released from the CDC highlights dramatic increases in cases of Hepatitis C nationwide and Indiana is one of 7 states with higher than average numbers.

The report shows numbers of patients infected tripled from 2010 to 2015. In 2010, the CDC reports there were 850 cases of Hepatitis C. In 2015, that number jumped to about 2,500 cases.

The Indiana State Department of Health reports 181 cases of Hepatitis C last year, with around 140 in 2015.

Those are only confirmed cases. The CDC believes there could be up to 34,000 cases nationwide in 2015. They estimate about 3.4 million people currently have the disease.

ISDH Epidemiologist, Dr. Josh Clayton, said the unconfirmed cases are likely because many people are silent carriers.

"Approximately 85 percent of individuals will not show any sort of symptoms, so no Jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes, abdominal pain and so on," he said.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a blood borne virus. The main transmitter of the disease is dirty needles. Many believe the drug epidemic is the leading cause for the increase in Hepatitis C cases.

Indiana currently has 8 needle exchange programs. While many argue the programs enable drug users, the state health department said studies show a needle exchange program helps to decrease the chances of spreading the disease.

"A person does have to have contact with blood and that does occur through injection drug use where you have sharing of needles, syringes," Dr. Clayton said.

May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day. Many organizations offer free Hepatitis C testing.

Click here for information from the Damien Center. If you have the disease and need help, you can contact the Bellflower clinic. Click here for more.