Tags: HIV | Indiana | outbreak | IV users

One of 'Worst Documented Outbreaks of HIV' Hits Indiana County

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 02:24 PM

What began in December with a single diagnosis of HIV infection in Scott County, Indiana, has grown into what federal officials characterize as one of the "worst documented outbreaks of HIV" among intravenous drug users in decades, reports The Indianapolis Star.

"This is one of the worst documented outbreaks of HIV among IV users in the past two decades. It's of import to the CDC as well as the people of Indiana," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the paper.

Overwhelmed by the gravity of the outbreak, the Indiana State Department of Health has welcomed the assistance of officials from the CDC, as well as representatives from health departments from three other states.

Gov. Mike Pence declared a state of emergency on March 26 and on April 20 signed another executive order extending the order in Scott County "due to an unprecedented outbreak of HIV."

Historically, fewer than five new cases of HIV infection are reported annually in Scott County, a rural county with an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent located near the border with Kentucky, according to the CDC. Yet, as of April 21, the Indiana State Health Department had diagnosed 135 cases or suspected cases.

The outbreak, which began with a single diagnosis in December, had increased to 26 cases in early March, and by early April had reached nearly 80.

The CDC says that all of those infected either live in the county or have ties to it and that drug use, often of the prescription painkiller Opana, in the community is a "multigenerational activity, with as many as three generations of a family and multiple community members injecting together."

One of the biggest challenges health officials face is a population that is misinformed or uneducated about the disease and fearful of taking precautions.

"There are still a significant proportion of people in Austin [Indiana] who have biases about HIV and are contributing to the stigma and subsequent fear," Dr. Diane Janowicz, an infectious disease specialist at Indiana University, who is assisting local health care workers, tells The New York Times.

"I have to reassure them — if your grandkid wants a sip of your drink, you can share it. It's OK to eat at the same table. You can use the same bathroom," she added.

Even local high school students have gotten involved in countering rumors and disinformation.

The Austin High School newspaper, The Eagle, published a special edition focused on the outbreak, including profiling at-risk residents, reports the PBS "Newshour."

Further complicating response efforts is a shortage of specialists. In Scott County, there is only one doctor with experience with infectious diseases, according to CNN.

Indiana University has dispatched healthcare workers to open a clinic that provides treatment and testing. Many also are traveling door-to-door.

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What began in December with a single diagnosis of HIV infection in Scott County, Indiana, has grown into what federal officials characterize as one of the "worst documented outbreaks of HIV" among intravenous drug users in decades, reports The Indianapolis Star.
HIV, Indiana, outbreak, IV users
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2015-24-05
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 02:24 PM
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