Back Hepatitis B July 28 Is World Hepatitis Day

Hepatitis B

July 28 Is World Hepatitis Day

alt

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and its consequences. This year's theme is "4000 Voices," reflecting the estimated 4000 people who die from viral hepatitis -- primarily hepatitis B and C -- each day, out of the approximately 400 million thought to be infected worldwide.

Resources

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and 150 million have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, with a combined 1.45 million deaths from these diseases annually.

Over years or decades hepatitis B and C can lead to severe liver disease including cirrhosis, liver cancer, and the need for liver transplantation. There is an effective vaccine for hepatitis B -- and universal vaccine programs have dramatically reduced new infections in many countries -- but it remains difficult to cure. In contrast, there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C, but effective new interferon-free direct-acting antiviral therapy can cure more than 90% of people treated, usually in 3 to 6 months.

Viral hepatitis has received increased attention with the advent of the new hepatitis C drugs, with patients, providers, and advocates calling on governments and international agencies to devote more resources to viral hepatitis, as well as demanding that pharmaceutical companies reduce the high cost of treatment in order to increase access to all who need it. A growing number of experts think it is possible to nearly eliminate viral hepatitis with widespread vaccination (for HBV), screening, harm reduction efforts (such as needle exchange for people who inject drugs), and affordable treatment.

On July 28 U.S. federal agencies and community leaders will commemorate World Hepatitis Day with a special event featuring panel discussions on topics including the intersection of viral hepatitis and HIV, state and community initiatives, and the importance of integrating behavioral health and viral hepatitis services. The observance will be webcast starting at 10:00 am EST at http://www.hhs.gov/live-2.

Below is an edited excerpt from a press release issues by the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and other organizations recognizing an effort in Congress to bring more attention and resources to fight hepatitis B and C.

Community Advocates Applaud U.S. Representatives’ Call for Leadership, Resources to Combat Deadly Epidemics on World Hepatitis Day

Persistence of mother-to-child hepatitis B transmission, astronomical rise of hepatitis C cases related to opioid crisis highlight urgency of tackling largest blood-borne communicable epidemics in U.S.

Washington, D.C. -- Tuesday, July 28, 2015­ -- This World Hepatitis Day, U.S. Representatives Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley), Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Judy Chu (D-CA) joined together to call on their Congressional colleagues for bold leadership and increased resources to adequately combat the hepatitis B and hepatitis C epidemics in the United States. These chronic, communicable, potentially life-threatening conditions -- and the largest drivers of liver cancer domestically -- affect an estimated 6 million Americans, though distressingly, 65-75% are unaware of their status.

"We have an incredible opportunity to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the U.S., with effective prevention and treatment options," said Ryan Clary, executive director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. "The only question is, will our leaders step up to take advantage of this opportunity, and commit to rectifying the highly inadequate response to the needs of millions of Americans?"

Despite a safe, proven vaccine preventing hepatitis B infection, perinatal transmission needlessly persists, due to such inattention. "Hepatitis B is the world's deadliest vaccine-preventable disease; therefore, now is the time to move aggressively to end mother-to-child transmission of this lethal virus," said Joan Block, RN, BSN, executive director of the Hepatitis B Foundation and Co-Founder of Hep B United. "The elimination of perinatal hepatitis B transmission is included in key documents like the HHS National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan because we have a highly effective vaccine, clear medical guidelines, and the public health infrastructure to achieve this success."

The steep rise in hepatitis C cases among young people under 30, as illustrated by recent outbreaks in states like Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, could also have been avoided. "We know syringe services programs, opioid substitution therapy, and now, curative treatment can make an significant impact in preventing and stopping transmission of hepatitis C among drug injecting communities," said Clary. "It is long past time to bring these interventions to scale, because those with substance use disorders deserve every opportunity to live as safely and healthily as possible."

Yet, as Murray Penner, executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors notes, "[t]he United States Congress has allocated only $31.3 million per year toward viral hepatitis prevention. This is roughly half of the $62 million requested by President Obama for fiscal year 2016, and far less than the $170.3 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Viral Hepatitis Professional Judgment Budget in 2010. Health department Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators -- the front line in coordinating prevention efforts and the only national prevention effort -- receive less than $1 in federal funding for every person living with hepatitis in the U.S. This is wholly inadequate. We cannot begin to adequately prevent and eventually eliminate hepatitis in the United States without increased investment in the Division of Viral Hepatitis."

Hepatitis B and C patient advocates applaud Congressmen Honda and Johnson and Congresswoman Chu for joining the global community to call for swift action and resources proportional to the significant burden of these epidemics.

7/28/15

Sources

World Hepatitis Day website. www.worldhepatitisday.org.

Join the HHS World Hepatitis Day Observance on Tuesday, July 28. Blog.AIDS.gov. July 17, 2015.

National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. Community Advocates Applaud U.S. Representatives’ Call for Leadership, Resources to Combat Deadly Epidemics on World Hepatitis Day. Press release. July 28, 2015.