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Media Statement

For Immediate Release
Contact: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
(404) 639-8895

CDC Statement Following Release of IOM Report on Hepatitis and Liver Cancer

Statement from Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the Institute of Medicine’s call for an intensified national response to viral hepatitis in the United States, which the IOM issued in a report today.

The report, “Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and C,” confirms the vision long shared by CDC and public health partners – that it is possible to stem the tide of viral hepatitis by scaling up efforts and expanding on proven strategies, and that both prevention and early intervention for chronic viral hepatitis can help save lives.

The IOM recommendations are clear. The nation must recognize viral hepatitis as a severe health threat that affects millions of Americans. Further, the IOM called for an intensified response in four critical areas to effectively combat the disease: surveillance; knowledge and awareness; immunization; and screening and care services for persons living with viral hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer and other liver diseases, and the most common reason for liver transplants in the United States. Yet there is lack of awareness about this serious public health challenge, not only among the general public, but among health care and social service providers, at-risk populations, and policy makers. As a result, most of the estimated 4.5 million Americans infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis C are unaware of their infection and not receiving the care they need. The IOM panel concluded that this overall lack of awareness has resulted in inadequate public resources to measure, prevent, and control hepatitis.

As the nation’s leading public health agency, CDC, along with other organizations in the fight against viral hepatitis, commissioned the IOM report to help raise visibility of the burden of viral hepatitis and to identify priorities for research, policy, and action. CDC looks forward to carefully reviewing the IOM report and assessing the strategies that will best contribute to making progress. CDC also recognizes that full implementation of those strategies will require a vigorous national commitment to improving our ability to protect Americans from liver disease and cancer caused by chronic viral hepatitis.