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Archived
June, 2007


Hispanic Health Program


             VIRAL HEPATITIS PREVENTION
                                             

WHAT IS THE PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM?

Viral hepatitis is a major public health problem affecting people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.  Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are the main types of viral hepatitis found in the United States.


  Hepatitis
C


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Hepatitis C is caused by infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

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HCV infection is the most common chronic (long-term) blood borne viral infection in the United States.

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About 3.9 million Americans have been infected with HCV and 2.7 million people have chronic infection.  Many people are not aware that they are infected and are not clinically ill.

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Overall, African Americans have higher rates of HCV infection than whites or Hispanics.

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HCV infection occurs among people of all ages, but most new infections occur among people 20-39 years of age.

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New HCV infections per year have declined from an average 240,000 in the 1980s to about 25,000 in 2001.

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Chronic liver disease is the tenth leading cause of death among adults in the United States. It is estimated that 40% to 60% of chronic liver disease is due to infection with HCV and it is the most common reason for liver transplantation.

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Direct exposure to blood poses the highest risk for acquiring hepatitis C and exposure to HCV through illegal injection drug use accounts for the largest number of infected people.  Some people were infected with HCV through transfusions received before July 1992.

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People at increased risk of HCV infection should get tested. People who test positive for hepatitis C should be evaluated for chronic liver disease. Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C.


  Hepatitis
A


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Hepatitis A is caused by infection with hepatitis A virus (HAV).

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There is no chronic (long-term) infection caused by HAV.

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An estimated 93,000 new HAV infections occurred in 2001.

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Hepatitis A rates are higher among Hispanics than among non-Hispanics.

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Infection with HAV most often occurs by living with or having sex with an infected person. Others get infected with HAV by eating food or water that is contaminated with this virus. Many people, especially children, do not show symptoms of their infection, but can transmit HAV to others.

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Hepatitis A vaccine is available to prevent HAV infection and is recommended for travelers to areas with increased rates of hepatitis A, men who have sex with men, injecting and non-injecting illegal drug users, persons with clotting-factor disorders, persons with chronic liver disease and children living in areas with increased rates of hepatitis A during the baseline period from 1987-1997.


  Hepatitis B


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Hepatitis B is caused by infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV).

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The highest rates of new and long-term HBV infections occur among African Americans.

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The number of new HBV infections per year in the U.S. has declined from an average of 450,000 in the 1980s to about 78,000 in 2001.

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HBV infection can cause chronic (long-term) infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. An estimated 1.25 million Americans have chronic HBV infection.

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HBV is spread by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.  People can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person. A baby can get hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.

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Vaccine is available to prevent HBV infection and is recommended for all children 0-18 years of age, people with multiple sex partners or who have been diagnosed with an STD, men who have sex with men, illegal injection drug users, persons whose jobs expose them to human blood, clients and staff of institutions for the developmentally disabled, hemodialysis patients, recipients of clotting-factors, household contacts and sexual partners of persons with chronic HBV infection, adoptees from HBV endemic countries, and inmates of long-term correctional facilities.


WHAT HAS CDC ACCOMPLISHED?


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In the late 1990s, hepatitis A vaccine became used widely among children and the number of hepatitis A cases has now reached historic lows.

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The greatest decline in HBV infections has happened among children and adolescents due to routine hepatitis B vaccination.

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Funding has been provided for 50 hepatitis C coordinators in states and large cities to integrate viral hepatitis counseling, testing, referral, and vaccination among high risk adults into existing public health programs.

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Funding has been provided to 18 projects to integrate viral hepatitis prevention services into STD, HIV, drug treatment, and correctional healthcare settings.

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Funding has also been provided to 11 organizations to test, disseminate, and evaluate educational materials, messages, and training programs to prevent and control viral hepatitis transmission.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?

Successful models for implementing the integration of hepatitis prevention messages into existing public health programs serving people at increased risk for infection should be implemented. This includes hepatitis coordinators as focal points in all 50 States and large metropolitan area health departments and partnerships with non-profit organizations to continue to develop, disseminate, and evaluate culturally appropriate hepatitis prevention education and training materials and training activities for health professionals.
 

Produced by CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID)

For more information, contact the National Center for Infectious Diseases, Mailstop G37, 1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30333: 1-888-4HEP-CDC (1-888-443-7232).

 

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