Hepatitis Awareness Month
May 19, 2021
During the month of May, CDC commemorates Hepatitis Awareness Month. Further, May 15 is National Hispanic Hepatitis Awareness Dayexternal icon, and May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day. These observances are a time for action to raise awareness of viral hepatitis as a major public health threat in the United States. Together, we can encourage testing to identify the millions living with these often silent infections and promote interventions that prevent viral hepatitis, including childhood and adult immunization, CDC recommendations for universal screening of hepatitis C among adults, best practices for universal screening of chronic hepatitis Bexternal icon among adults, and strategies for safe injection practices among persons who inject drugs.
On May 1, CDC awarded funding to 59 US states, territories, and large cities through the new cooperative agreement, Integrated Viral Hepatitis Surveillance and Prevention Funding for Health Departments. This funding will strengthen surveillance for viral hepatitis; increase stakeholder engagement in elimination planning; and improve access to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention among populations most at risk for viral hepatitis.
Today, CDC published online the 2019 Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Report for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. This report now includes demographic characteristics of persons with chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regions. In addition, outcome data from CDC’s Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program for infants born during 2018 to persons with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection are reported from 64 jurisdictions. On May 24, CDC will also release the 2021 National Viral Hepatitis Progress Report which provides an update on progress toward achieving established goals for viral hepatitis burden and associated mortality.
According to the surveillance report, the United States experienced an alarming increase of 51% for hepatitis A infections, increasing from 24,900 estimated infections in 2018 to 37,700 estimated infections in 2019, primarily due to person-to-person outbreaks occurring among people who use drugs and people experiencing homelessness.
Notable increases are also reported in the incidence of acute hepatitis C. Acute hepatitis C infections increased 14%, from 50,300 estimated infections in 2018 to approximately 57,500 estimated infections in 2019. Injection drug use remains the primary risk behavior identified among persons with acute hepatitis C. The number of reported acute hepatitis B cases remained stable from 2018 to 2019, as it has over the last decade.
We encourage you to join the CDC webinar on May 19, 2021 at 1PM EST to learn more about the state of viral hepatitis in the United States. Registration link: https://nastad.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpfuuqrDgjHtAGn1ycAU8IF08uu8v36e4Rexternal icon
We also want to recognize how tirelessly so many of you have been working to respond to COVID-19 over the last 16 months. We appreciate your tremendous efforts to address not only the pandemic, but also continue your work to prevent and control viral hepatitis. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine recently published, Decreases in Hepatitis C Testing and Treatment During the COVID-19 Pandemicexternal icon. This report documents the evaluation of pre-pandemic data (2018-2019) on dispensed prescriptions for hepatitis C treatment compared to 2020 data. Results showed a dramatic decrease in hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing and treatment rates during the pandemic period. Our experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic will help us to prepare for future devastating public health emergencies while also continuing to address existing public health threats like viral hepatitis.
Today, we know that elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat is possible. Yesterday the White House issued a proclamationexternal icon supporting that vision and acknowledging National Hepatitis Testing Day. The proclamation, along with the broader health community, encourages all Americans to learn their infection status and all health care providers to educate their patients about viral hepatitis and testing. Together, the viral hepatitis community can innovate and streamline efforts to improve equitable access to viral hepatitis prevention, treatment, and care for all.
Thank you for your dedication and commitment to the COVID-19 response and your ongoing innovation to prevent viral hepatitis infections and improve the health of millions of infected Americans.
Carolyn Wester, M.D.
Division of Viral Hepatitis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
/Deron C. Burton/
Deron C. Burton, MD, JD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS)
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention