Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis
Viral hepatitis is a silent epidemic in the United States. Although it is a leading infectious cause of death and claims the lives of 12,000–15,000 Americans each year, viral hepatitis remains virtually unknown to the general public, at-risk populations, and policymakers; even health-care providers often lack knowledge and awareness about these infections. As a consequence, most of the 3.5–5.3 million Americans living with viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others. Viral hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in the United States; persons living with viral hepatitis are at increased risk for both conditions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to ensuring that new cases of viral hepatitis are prevented and that persons who are already infected are tested; informed about their infection; and provided with counseling, care, and treatment. On May 12, 2011, HHS issued Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (PDF 672KB) which outlines robust and dynamic steps to increase viral hepatitis awareness and knowledge among health care providers and communities, and improve access to quality prevention, care, and treatment services for viral hepatitis. Some of these life-saving actions already are well underway. Other actions, representing innovations in practice, technology, and therapy, will require new strategic directions and commitment.
Through the action plan, the federal partners seek:
- Increase in the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis B virus infection, from 33% to 66%
- Increase in the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis C virus infection, from 45% to 66%
- Reduce by 25% the number of new cases of HCV infection
- Eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HBV
Action Plan Priority Areas
- Educate health care providers and communities to reduce health disparities
- Improve testing, care, and treatment to prevent liver disease and cancer
- Strengthen surveillance to detect viral hepatitis transmission and disease
- Eliminate transmission of vaccine-preventable viral hepatitis
- Reduce viral hepatitis caused by drug-use behaviors
- Protect patients and workers from health-care associated viral hepatitis
Download a two-page Action Plan fact sheet (PDF 215KB) to share with others.
Read the Latest Blog Posts About the Action Plan
Blog posts about the Action Plan are shared via the AIDS.gov blog. Read the latest posts:
- “Hepatitis C: Testing baby boomers saves lives.” Read the May 2013 issue of CDC’s Vital Signs
- Read about viral hepatitis disparities in the African American community and steps you can take to address them in this updated fact sheet.
- Read the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan Interagency Implementation Progress Report--Year 1 (PDF 787KB) (released October 2012).
- President Obama releases 2012 World Hepatitis Day proclamation.
- CDC releases Know More Hepatitis campaign materials.
- CDC recommends one-time Hepatitis C screening for Americans born between 1945 and 1965.
- Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh featured on new poster urging Asian Americans to discuss testing for hepatitis B with their doctors (PDF 1.54MB).
- Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin promotes hepatitis awareness in new poster (PDF 999KB).
- New Fact Sheet on HIV & Viral Hepatitis (PDF 742KB) from CDC, download and share.
Learn More About Viral Hepatitis
Federal partners engaged in implementing the Action Plan offer more detailed information on the prevention, care and treatment of hepatitis B and C. Visit these specific sites for resources you can use: