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Viral Hepatitis Awareness --- May 2008

May 2008 marks the 13th anniversary of Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States. May 19 is World Hepatitis Day, which recognizes the importance of global commitments to prevent liver disease and cancer caused by viral hepatitis. This issue of MMWR includes a report on an outbreak of acute hepatitis C associated with unsafe injection practices at an endoscopy clinic and a report on hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among young injection-drug users. Both reports highlight the role of viral hepatitis surveillance in detecting outbreaks and populations at risk. Development of effective state and local surveillance for acute and chronic viral hepatitis is a public health priority.

HCV infection is the most common bloodborne illness, the leading cause of chronic liver disease, and the primary indication for liver transplantation in the United States. HCV is spread primarily through exposure to infectious blood; injection-drug use is the major contributor to HCV transmission in the United States. Although HCV infection can result in acute illness, most of its effects on the liver, including cirrhosis and liver cancer, are not apparent until years after exposure. Many of the estimated 3.2 million persons living with chronic HCV infection in the United States are unaware of their infection status.

CDC recommends HCV testing for persons at risk (1). Persons with HCV infection also should be assessed regularly for severity of liver disease, onset of liver cancer, and the need for treatment. Additional information about viral hepatitis is available at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.

Reference

  1. CDC. Recommendations for prevention and control of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and HCV-related chronic disease. MMWR 1998;47(No. RR-19).



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