VENTURA COUNTY: Hepatitis C Cases On the Rise, Study Shows
Reported hepatitis C cases in Ventura County more than doubled from 1997 to 1998, jumping from 95 to 228, according to a county health study released Tuesday. Public Health Department epidemiologist Barbara Spraktes-Wilkins attributed the local spike to increased testing as doctors become more aware of the disease. "It wasn't even reported before 1996. In 1995, it was called non-A, non-B hepatitis because they didn't even know what the organism was," she said. The county's most populous city, Oxnard, recorded the highest number of cases at 70, but also tests residents more frequently, Spraktes-Wilkins said. The study also revealed that STDs, particularly chlamydia, were the most common communicable diseases reported in the county. In 1998, Ventura County had 980 cases of chlamydia, an 18% increase from 1997's 829. In 1996, there were 626 reported cases. Most of 1998's chlamydia cases -- 512 -- were detected among those ages 20 to 29, while residents ages 10 to 19 ranked second with 354 cases. Dr. Robert Levin, head of the county Public Health Department, said that the "increase is partly because people, especially young people, think HIV is not to be feared and that has emboldened them to not use barrier protection." Other STD rates reported in the study include gonorrhea with 99 cases in 1998 and syphilis with 28 cases. And although the increase in chlamydia cases marked the most dramatic rise, Ventura officials "continue to be concerned about the local incidence of AIDS." As of August last year, 766 AIDS cases were reported, and 471 of those people had died. In 1998, AIDS cases numbered 708, with 48 cases reported that year. Levin said, "People need to use protection. They think they have found a cure because of the drugs people take, but the drugs only depress it for a few years, not for a lifetime" (Blake, Los Angeles Times, 4/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.