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World Hepatitis Day

White House Event

In the United States, World Hepatitis Day will be observed July 28 at a White House event, starting at 1:00 PM EDT. The webcast of this event will be available on CDC's Viral Hepatitis website.

Viral Hepatitis Awareness

Although July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, viral hepatitis needs more attention throughout the year. One of the main findings from last year's Institute of Medicine (IOM) report was that the American public and health care professionals lacked knowledge and awareness about viral hepatitis.

The term "hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver, and it refers to a group of diseases, each caused by a unique virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

3 Important Facts about Viral Hepatitis

  • Two types of viral hepatitis, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, can lead to chronic, life-long infections
  • Many people with chronic viral hepatitis do not know they're infected
  • Chronic viral hepatitis can lead to liver cancer

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can Lead to Chronic, Life-long Infections

Hepatitis B is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. When first infected, a person can develop an "acute" or short-term infection. Some people are able to clear the virus, but for others, especially those infected at birth or as young children, the infection remains and leads to a "chronic," or lifelong, illness. While Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable, many people became infected before the Hepatitis B vaccine was widely recommended for children and adults at risk.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. Most people who become infected with the virus—up to 85%—go on to develop a chronic infection. For reasons that are not known, about 15%–25% of people will "clear" the virus without treatment.

Many People with Chronic Viral Hepatitis Do not Know They're Infected

Many people with chronic viral hepatitis do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Even though a person has no symptoms and may appear healthy, the virus can still be detected in the blood and damage to the liver can still be occurring. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take up to 30 years to develop, and damage to the liver can silently occur during this time.

Chronic Viral Hepatitis can Lead to Liver Cancer

Graphic: LiverBoth types of chronic viral hepatitis can cause liver cancer and have contributed to the increase of liver cancer in recent decades. At least half of new cases of liver cancer are from chronic Hepatitis C.

Some population groups are disproportionately affected by viral hepatitis-related liver cancer. The number of new cases of liver cancer is highest in Asians and Pacific Islanders and is increasing among African Americans, persons 46–64 years of age, and men.

The HHS Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis

In response to the IOM report released last year, Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh created a workgroup made up of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) experts and charged them with developing a comprehensive strategic plan for viral hepatitis prevention and control. The resulting action plan is entitled,Combating the Silent Epidemic: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, and was released on May 12th.

The Action Plan covers six broad topics:

  • Educating Providers and Communities to Reduce Health Disparities
  • Improving Testing, Care, and Treatment to Prevent Liver Disease and Cancer
  • Strengthening Surveillance for Viral Hepatitis
  • Eliminating Transmission of Vaccine-Preventable Viral Hepatitis
  • Reducing Viral Hepatitis Cases Caused by Drug-Use Behaviors
  • Protecting Patients and Workers from Health-Care Associated Viral Hepatitis

Photo: Healthcare professionalsThe Action Plan will help HHS improve its current efforts to prevent viral hepatitis and related disease. CDC is taking the lead on many of the actions and partnering with other HHS agencies on others. Even as the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan is being unveiled and implemented, CDC is taking action to prevent and control these infections. With early detection, many people can get lifesaving care and treatment that can limit disease progression, prevent cancer deaths, and help break the cycle of unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. If you are concerned about viral hepatitis, talk to your health care professional.

More Information

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  • Page last reviewed: July 28, 2011
  • Page last updated: July 28, 2011
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