Hepatitis C now the deadliest infectious disease in America; one local shares his story

KENANSVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A potentially deadly disease and heroin use go hand-in-hand. One Duplin County man is sharing his story about how his former drug abuse cost him his dreams, even after he got clean.

Dylan Smith, a recovering addict, is dealing with a disease that set him back on his dream to become a law enforcement officer and help in the fight against drugs.

Hepatitis C is the deadliest infectious disease in the United States. Both Smith and local doctors don’t want anyone to become a statistic.

Nausea and headaches are just a few of the many symptoms Smith deals with while suffering from hepatitis C.

“I wouldn’t wish this on no one,” said Dylan Smith, who was addicted to heroin. It’s something he’s now paying the price for, despite being sober for two years. “I purchased some heroin off of someone and days later they told me they had Hepatitis C and I had used their needle.”

More people die from Hepatitis C than the number of those who die from HIV and Tuberculosis combined.

“There’s just been a lot of people infected who don’t know about, so there’s been an increasing number of people who have died from it,” said Dr. Alicia Lagasca, an ECU physician. She credits the recent spike in part to the rise in heroin use. Baby boomers are also learning they have it because blood transfusions weren’t always safe.

Dr. Lagasca says symptoms can take years to show up and people don’t know they have Hepatitis C until it’s too late.

“It can go asymptotic for so long in order to develop liver damage and symptoms it actually takes 20,30,40 years,” added Dr. Lagasca.

Smith says he wouldn’t wish his struggles on anyone.

“If someone can just see this, and they can think about what they’re doing with themselves, and it would make them stop or realize what they’re doing then I’ve accomplished my goal,” said Smith.

Dr. Lagasca encourages all baby boomers and drug users to get tested. You can get Hep C from blood transfusions, intercourse, or like Dylan, dirty needles.

As for Dylan, he’s expected to make a full recovery and will start his treatment for Hep C in a couple of days.


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