HUNTINGTON, W. Va. (AP / WSAZ) – UPDATE 6/22/19 @ 3:15 pm.
According to health officials in West Virginia, the number of cases of HIV in Cabell County has risen to 53.
The Herald Dispatch reports that the total has increased by four cases in the last four weeks and nine cases in the last nine weeks. [1
The cluster pursued since January 2018 is a significant increase from the base average of eight cases per year over a five-year period. Cabell County is currently the only active HIV cluster in West Virginia.
The situation is still defined as a cluster rather than a complete breakout. According to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, a cluster is restricted to a specific population group – in this case IV drug users – and may be controlled there with minimal risk to the general public.
UPDATE 5/27/19 @ 10:30 pm
According to health officials in West Virginia, an HIV cluster in Cabell County reflects a shift in disease transmission.
According to Cabell County Health Department officials, the county cluster – the only one currently known in West Virginia – consists of 49 confirmed cases.
State officials state that all cases of intravenous drug use by sharing were completed by contaminated syringes.
The cluster, tracked since January 2018, represents a significant increase over the average of eight cases a year over the last five years.
In 2017, West Virginia had one of the country's lowest HIV rates (4.3%) Cases per 100,000 inhabitants) according to the Centers for the Control and Prevention of Diseases. The same thing happened to Kentucky (7.9 out of 100,000).
The HIV cluster could be devastating for communities affected by opioid addiction.
UPDATE 30.04.19 @ 18:30
HIV cases are still climbing in Cabell district.
There were 28 cases in March. By April 22, there were 44 cases.
"At present, we are still identifying new cases, so our number of cases is increasing," Dr. Michael Kilenny, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.
The cases are considered clusters rather than outbreaks because they are restricted to a specific group of people.
Much of the cases have been confirmed among injecting drug users.
To prevent the spread of cases, health authorities are calling on all vulnerable individuals to receive antiviral drugs. Cabell-Huntington's Department of Health is working on prescribing it to people at risk, not people who have already been diagnosed.
"We are working very closely with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and the CDC to take effective control measures for this cluster, and we can hopefully not only stop the spread in the vulnerable community, but also alleviate fears the general public, "said Kilkenny.
Currently, the cluster confirmed in Cabell County is the only one in the state. However, state health authorities are calling for government providers to step up HIV testing.
According to the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, sexual contact was the main risk factor for HIV infection by 2018. However, this year, the main risk factor shifted to drug use through injections.
Health officials say that more HIV cases are likely to be confirmed until their intervention efforts take effect.
The Caball-Huntington Health Department is offering a Needle Exchange Program called the Harm Reduction Program. It offers users clean needles and health officials say it helps prevent the spread of various diseases. Officials say that sharing needles among drug users has made a major contribution to the spread of HIV.
"This comes from splashing and that's another problem," Dr. Kilkenny. "The availability of sterile syringes for people who inject drugs is more important than ever."
There are an estimated 1,800 drug users in Cabell County.
Officials say that the goal now is to quickly and carefully link those infected with the virus and find those most at risk for antiviral drugs.
ORIGINAL STORY 05.03.19
West Virginia officials state that an active HIV cluster has been confirmed in Cabell County.
According to a statement by the West Virginia Department of Public Health, 28 cases are known, mainly among intravenous drug users.
Officials said the cluster represents a sharp increase over the base rate of eight cases per year over the last five years.
Michael Kilkenny, chief physician of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, is the first significant HIV cluster in West Virginia to identify intravenous drug use as a major risk factor. Cabell County has more than 1,800 active drug users, according to official estimates. The introduction of HIV into this population is therefore very worrying.