Hepatitis C now the deadliest infectious disease in America – as man shares story

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KENANSVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A potentially deadly disease and heroin use go hand-in-hand. One North Carolina 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.

Dylan Smith said, “I wouldn’t wish this on no one.”

For years, Smith was addicted to heroin, 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,” said Smith.

More people die from it 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.

ECU doctor, Alicia Lagasca, 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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