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Hepatitis Awareness Month --- May 2011

This month marks the 16th anniversary of Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States. Viral hepatitis, particularly infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV), is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. This issue of MMWR includes a report that focuses on a recent trend in HCV infection.

The report shows an increase in cases of HCV infection during 2002--2009 among adolescents and young adults aged 15--24 years in Massachusetts and highlights the fundamental role of surveillance in identifying emerging patterns of transmission and developing appropriate public health response. The Massachusetts cases were reported from all areas of the state, primarily among non-Hispanic whites. Injection drug use (IDU) was the most common risk factor for HCV transmission, and the increase in case reports suggests an epidemic of HCV infection related to IDU in this age group in Massachusetts.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Sciences issued a report on viral hepatitis outlining recommendations for the prevention and control of HBV and HCV infection, including improvement in public health surveillance for viral hepatitis and viral hepatitis screening linked with prevention and care (1). In response to the IOM report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is developing a comprehensive viral hepatitis action plan that will set forth strategies to improve viral hepatitis prevention, care, and treatment in the United States. Additional information regarding viral hepatitis is available from CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.

Reference

  1. Institute of Medicine. Hepatitis and liver cancer: a national strategy for prevention and control of hepatitis B and C. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2010. Available at http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12793&page=1. Accessed April 28, 2011.


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