Today is Hepatitis Testing Day

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Tuesday, May 19, is the fourth annual Hepatitis Testing Day, a key date in Hepatitis Awareness Month. The day is opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of screening for hepatitis B and C. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half or more of the estimated 4 million people living with chronic viral hepatitis in the U.S. do not know they are infected.

Over years or decades chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to severe liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Viral hepatitis is a leading indication for liver transplants in the U.S. and worldwide.

Hepatitis B -- along with hepatitis A, which does not lead to chronic disease -- can be prevented with a vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccineis a routine childhood immunization in the U.S. The vaccine is also recommended for people at risk who were not immunized as children, including people who inject drugs, people who have sex with multiple partners, gay and bisexual men, people with HIV, people with other chronic liver diseases (including hepatitis C), patients undergoing kidney dialysis, people with diabetes, prisoners, and healthcare or emergency service workers.

There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, but new direct-acting antiviral treatments can cure more than 90% of patients in 12 weeks without interferon. The CDC and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendthat all Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1965 should be screened for HCV at least once as part of their routine health care, while people with ongoing risk should be tested regularly.

"Viral hepatitis takes a tremendous toll on the lives of many persons in the United States. An estimated 3.5-5.3 million Americans are living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, which together represent the primary cause of chronic liver disease and liver cancer," stated John Ward, director of CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis in his Hepatitis Awareness Month message. "Now is the time to work together to increase awareness about the large and often under-recognized burden of viral hepatitis and encourage testing for persons living with viral hepatitis."

Resources:

5/19/15

Sources

CDC. Hepatitis Testing Day - May 19. Updated April 16, 2015.

J Ward. CDC’s Important Hepatitis Information and Hepatitis Awareness Month Resources. CDC National Prevention Information Network bulletin. May 14, 2015.