Opioids crisis causing rise in babies born with Hepatitis C

SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Another troubling development in the opioid epidemic: the number of new Hepatitis C cases has nearly doubled among pregnant women in the U.S. in recent years.

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That’s affecting some unintended victims: babies, in utero. “Hep C” can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. But a combination drug is helping the littlest victims fight back.

Talon Hendrickson-Zimmerman, 11, plays without a care these days, since his Hepatitis C is gone. He no longer has to pack gloves in case he gets hurt.

“If they needed to help me, they would have to wear them, because they couldn’t touch my blood cause I had Hepatitis C,” Hendrickson-Zimmerman said.

Talon got Hepatitis C from his birth mom, who used intravenous drugs. He was diagnosed at two. His first treatment, Interferon, made him terribly sick. Last year he entered a clinical trial for Harvoni, made of two anti-viral drugs. Talon’s adoptive mom, Lisa Mills, says his viral load dropped from 1.2 million to 20 in a week.

Then his doctor brought this news.

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“When she came in to the room and told us after two weeks on this medication, he is cured, I mean you just literally cried. We cried,” Mills said.

Karen Murray MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs, Chief, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, and Seattle Children’s Hospital at Seattle Children’s Hospital says Harvoni was approved for adults and older kids. As soon as she could, she got Talon in a trial for younger children. He took two pills a day for three months with no side effects.

“The efficacy of the treatment is truly astounding.  Ninety-eight plus percent in his age group,” Murray said.

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Talon will be monitored for five years.

“He doesn't have to worry about going through liver transplants, infecting other people. He can play basketball, he can have a nosebleed,” Mills said.

Just like a normal kid.

Because of responses like Talon’s, Harvoni was approved for clinical trials in younger kids. It’s now in trial for children as young as three. Next, Dr. Murray says she hopes someone will work on how to prevent mom to baby transmission; maybe by treating moms during pregnancy.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.