SHELBY COUNTY — A recent local outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis C in Shelby County is apparently linked to an individual who has been HIV positive since 2010, investigators from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) believe.
The ODH team has been in Sidney, Ohio, for several days, and sources indicate that its work will continue, at least through the current week.
There are reports that the ODH Emergency Preparedness Structure has already been put in place in an attempt to avoid the kind of fear that gripped Scott County, Indiana, earlier this year. In what became Indiana’s worst HIV outbreak, centered on the tiny rural town of Austin, health officials were diagnosing as many as 22 new cases a week.
Personnel from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), headquartered in Atlanta, are apparently already monitoring the local situation, according to sources within the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department. The four new cases of the HIV virus include two males and two females, one of whom is pregnant.
The initial investigation began after a local individual who was incarcerated in the Shelby County Jail was transferred to the state prison system. There, routine testing conducted on all new prisoners revealed that the individual tested positive for the HIV virus and for Hepatitis C.
Health officials then interview the infected individual in an attempt to learn the names of all those with whom the infected party may have had contact and subsequently been infected. Both types of infection may be spread through the high-risk practice of sharing needles and other injection equipment, such as cookers, syringes, rinse water and cotton balls, during drug use. Such infections also can be spread through unsafe sex practices.
Investigators from the ODH Public health continue to interview individuals who have been identified as either sexual partners or individuals with whom those who have tested positive as infected have shared needles during injection drug use. The process, known as contact tracing, allows public health staff the opportunity to reach out to exposed individuals to offer free testing for the HIV virus, as well as hepatitis and syphilis, all of which can be contracted by needle sharing.
The list of known contacts has reportedly now exceeded 80. Not all of them have been interviewed, so it is likely that through contact tracing, the list will grow.
Individuals who test positive will be given medical treatment options. They will also be given substance abuse counseling options.
Those who believe they may be infected with either the HIV virus or the Hepatitis C virus are being encouraged to all the Ohio HIV/STD Hotline at 800-332-2437. All calls are confidential.