On World Hepatitis Day, we reaffirm our commitment to combating the "silent epidemic" of viral hepatitis.
Globally, one in 12 people has chronic hepatitis B or C infection. About 1 million people die each year from chronic viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States and worldwide. And while it is the most common blood-borne infection and a leading infectious cause of death, claiming the lives of some 15,000 Americans each year, viral hepatitis often remains unrecognized as a public health priority.
Thanks to advances in science and policy, we have made progress with combating this silent epidemic. Hepatitis B and C are both preventable -- there is a vaccine for hepatitis B and effective treatments. Hepatitis C is curable for many people, and, with the rapidly improving treatment landscape, we have hope for a higher cure rate in the near future.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced it will renew its landmark Viral Hepatitis Action Plan for 2014-2016 to strengthen existing strategies to prevent new cases. The new plan will help ensure that people who are already infected receive testing and linkage to care and treatment. The Affordable Care Act, by requiring health plans to offer certain free preventive services, also provides tremendous opportunities to expand access to viral hepatitis testing, care, and treatment services.
Early detection and treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C can reduce disease progression, limit transmission to others, and prevent serious liver disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that adults born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for Hepatitis C.
Talk with your doctor about whether you should be tested for hepatitis B or C. You can also take an online risk assessment at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment.
Don't let hepatitis be a silent killer any longer.