Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency Thursday in south Indiana’s Scott County, which has seen a large HIV flare-up from intravenous drug use.
At least 79 HIV confirmed cases have been tied to the southern Indiana country since January, up from fewer than five new cases in a typical year, and the state expects that figure to rise as officials scramble to alert up to 100 people linked to those newly infected. Intravenous drug use has been named as the primary infection source in every confirmed case.
“This is all-hands-on-deck. This is a very serious situation,” Pence said at a news conference on Thursday.
The emergency order will set up a command center to coordinate HIV and substance abuse treatment. Pence also authorized a temporary needle-exchange program, on recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the governor had previously said he opposed the practice.
“Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” the Governor said in a statement. “ I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”