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Infections among drug users rise

The number of injecting drug users catching infections such as hepatitis C is increasing, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The figures show that cases of hepatitis C doubled between 2000 and 2003 among those who had recently started injecting drugs. In 2003 the number of hepatitis C cases among those who had first injected in the last three years was 18 per cent, compared to nine per cent in 2000.

Report author Dr Fortune Ncube said: "This report is a timely reminder that injecting drug users are vulnerable to a wide range of infectious diseases."

Adding: "The continued sharing of injecting equipment and the worsening injecting related hygiene are key factors in the ongoing transmission of infections in injecting drug users in particular amongst those who began injecting in the last three years."

The report also highlights the increasing problem of infections linked to MRSA and severe group A streptococcus (GAS).

The HPA stressed that the figures show the importance of needle exchange services for those who are unable to stop injecting as well as the need for easy access to treatment and support for those wishing to break the habit.

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