According to Dr. Jag H. Khalsa, Chief of the Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse and Co-occurring Infections Branch at NIDA, “The study has enhanced our understanding of HCV transmission risk, underscoring the resilience and prolonged viability of HCV on a variety of surfaces and objects that can result in infection weeks after contamination. This obviously has serious implications for PWID.” Dr. Khalsa noted that PWID who share any equipment used to prepare or inject drugs (e.g., needles, filtration cottons, “cookers”) are at very high risk for exposure to HCV. The new study findings, Dr. Khalsa explained, suggest that PWIDs could also come into contact with infectious virus on various surfaces or objects weeks after it was left there if the surface or object wasn’t properly disinfected. In addition, people who live in households with PWIDs could also be at risk of exposure to HCV if infected blood is left on environmental surfaces, he noted.
Protecting patients and workers from health care-associated viral hepatitis and preventing viral hepatitis associated with drug use remain two fundamental priorities in our national strategy to combat the “silent epidemic” of viral hepatitis. The Yale study provides important new information that can be used to advance these prevention efforts and educate healthcare workers, patients, persons who inject drugs and their care providers.