CDC researchers say much of Kentucky at risk for HIV outbreak

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was March of last year when Indiana's governor declared a public health emergency in Scott County, Indiana. 

The number of HIV cases had skyrocketed. The virus largely spread among IV drug users sharing needles. 

Now, more than 180 people have been affected, many of them also testing positive for Hepatitis C. 

"I think it raised awareness all over the nation," said Kentucky Public Health Senior Deputy Commissioner Dr. Kraig Humbaugh. 

WDRB News has obtained a map from the CDC that shows other areas that are vulnerable to an outbreak. 

The document states, "Through this analysis, CDC sought to identify U.S. counties where persons who inject drugs (PWID) appear especially vulnerable to the rapid spread of HIV or Hepatitis C infection, if introduced into this population." 

According to the map, some parts of southern Indiana are at risk, as well as much of the Appalachian region of Kentucky. 

"Because of the rise in the use of injection drugs in Kentucky and in other states across the nation, that makes us at higher risk," Humbaugh told WDRB News. 

He says the state was recently ranked fourth in the nation for drug overdoses. 

As for preventing the spread of viruses, Humbaugh says education among drug users is key, along with testing.  

"We're fortunate that every county offers HIV testing and has for actually many years," he said of the state. 

Humbaugh says counties were recently given the option to test for Hepatitis C, as well. 

Communities are also now able to set up needle exchanges. Louisville has one up and running. 

The CDC document states that the map doesn't mean an outbreak is inevitable or that there's a problem now. 

But it is eye-opening. 

"We need to make sure that communities are aware of that potential of that happening there and that they're watchful and vigilant and our job as public health authorities is to help them do that," Humbaugh said. 

Kentucky health officials say HIV rates have remained steady. 

On average, one person in the state is reported as newly diagnosed everyday. 

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