May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. In recognition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new Vital Signs report to raise awareness about the importance of testing baby boomers for hepatitis C. This month’s Vital Signs Fact Sheet highlights some of the key issues around hepatitis C, especially the impact on baby boomers:
- About 3 million adults in the United States are infected with the hepatitis C virus, most are baby boomers.
- Adults born from 1945-1965 are five times more likely to have hepatitis C.
- Up to three in four people don’t know they’re infected so they aren’t getting the medical care they need
- Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants.
In CDC’s corresponding Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, two articles focus on hepatitis C. The first, Vital Signs: Evaluation of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Testing and Reporting - Eight U.S. Sites, 2005-2011 examines surveillance data from eight U.S. cities to argue that in order to identify current infection, a test for hepatitis C virus RNA is needed. The second, Testing for HCV Infection: An Update of Guidance for Clinicians and Laboratorians gives CDC guidance for testing to identify current HCV infection.
What can be done?
- Baby boomers can ask their health care providers about getting tested for hepatitis C.
- Health-care providers can test all patients born from 1945-1965 for hepatitis C.
- Health-care providers can make sure that everyone with a positive hepatitis C antibody test gets the recommended follow-up test, and if found to be currently infected is linked to life-saving care and treatment.
Hepatitis C has had a significant effect on the baby-boomer population. Testing this population and then linking those infected to care can reduce further hepatitis C-related morbidity and mortality. Please join us in our efforts to get people with hepatitis C identified and into medical care.
Resources for Hepatitis Awareness Month
In partnership with the CDC Foundation, the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition has made a commitment to help CDC make meaningful advances in the prevention, screening and treatment of viral hepatitis. Learn more and download resources to help amplify these important messages about Hepatitis Testing Day and Hepatitis Awareness Month. A hepatitis Digital Toolkit and Faces of Hepatitis video stories are available on the ViralHepatitisAction.org website. Vital Signs and viral hepatitis materials are available at CDC.gov.
John W. Ward, M.D. is the director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.