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Seneca County tops state in cirrhosis deaths

While statistics show Seneca County has the highest cirrhosis death rate in the state, county public health officials said progress is being made to combat the issue.

The numbers from the state Department of Health reflect deaths from 2013-15 based on the number of deaths in each county per 100,000 residents. The state average is 7.8 deaths per year over that three-year period.

Seneca County, with a population of just over 35,000, had six cirrhosis deaths in 2013, 10 in 2014 and five in 2015. That equates to a three-year average of 20 deaths per 100,000 population.

“We were surprised by the numbers, although we had fewer deaths in 2015,” said Vickie Swinehart, the county’s director of public health. “We do have a high rate of binge drinking in the county, so that could be a factor, although alcohol is not the only cause of cirrhosis.”

Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver doesn’t function property due to long-term damage. Chronic alcoholism is the leading cause in the United States, but it can also be caused by chronic viral hepatitis, fat buildup in the liver not caused by alcohol use, bile duct disease and genetic disease.

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