Infectious Diseases & the Opioid Epidemic

The United States is in the midst of an opioid misuse epidemic involving prescription drugs, as well as heroin and other synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl). This crisis has led to increases in drug overdose deaths, admissions for substance use treatment, and neonatal abstinence syndrome. The opioid epidemic has also increased the number of people who inject drugs (PWID), and thereby substantially increased the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses, including HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and hepatitis B virus (HBV) through unsafe injection practices.

NACCHO encourages health departments to review the resources on this page, assess your local vulnerability to the spread of hepatitis and HIV among PWID, and determine what actions are needed to prepare for and respond to this vulnerability.

In the wake of the 2015 HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana – and in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) vulnerability assessment, which identified 220 counties most vulnerable to an outbreak of hepatitis C and HIV among PWID – the LENOWISCO Health District of the Virginia Department of Health initiated efforts to develop a comprehensive community response plan to address this vulnerability. The District, made up of four localities in rural southwest Virginia - Lee, Norton, Wise, and Scott - has been heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic and two of its counties were identified in the CDC’s assessment.

Read Community Response Planning for Outbreaks of Hepatitis and HIV Among People Who Inject Drugs: A Case Study from the LENOWISCO Health District, a Rural Community in Virginia to learn about the process the health department took for developing the Community Response Plan, lessons learned, and next steps for putting the plan into action. The full document is 138 pages, but each component can be individually accessed below:

On April 10, 2018, NACCHO hosted a webinar with the LENOWISCO Health District, titled “Developing a Community Response Plan for an Outbreak of Hepatitis and HIV among Persons Who Inject Drugs: How a Rural Community in Virginia is Preparing for and Addressing this Vulnerability.” During the webinar, staff from the health department share the process they undertook to develop the Hepatitis and HIV Community Response Plan and respond to questions from participants.

In November 2017, the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS) and NACCHO held a webinar discussion on improving drug user health though syringe service programs (SSPs) in urban and rural settings.

Watch the recording.

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