Hepatitis is a serious, although highly preventable, virus. The biggest problem with its treatment is that not enough people realize they are infected until it is too late. An update in the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan aims to change the way the nation views hepatitis and hopes it will lead to more diagnoses and perhaps save lives. Thursday's release of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis is paving the way in the fight against this silent killer.
Chronic viral hepatitis (hepatitis B [HBV] and hepatitis C [HCV]) affects between 3.5 and 5.3 million Americans. Due to the low numbers of proper diagnosis, untreated chronic viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for a liver transplantation in the U.S. It is also the leading cause of infectious death in the U.S., claiming between 12,000 and 18,000 lives per year. Aids.gov released a summary of 10 recent accomplishments, of the many, that have helped in the action plan to prevent, care, and treat viral hepatitis.
The establishment of National Hepatitis Testing Day was among one of the recent accomplishments. The day will be observed on May 19th each year. A reformation of hepatitis C testing recommendations will also insist that everyone born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for the infection, seeing as, according to the CDC, these Baby Boomers are five times more likely to be infected. There are now also improvements in the hepatitis awareness campaign. It is now available in more languages, in an effort to reach more at-risk individuals. More attention will now be paid toward individuals who have injected drugs, seeing that recent data shows 64 percent of these individuals are infected with HCV, and 2.7 to 11 percent are infected with HBC.
The new implications also include the cease of discrimination toward health care professionals and students infected with hepatitis. There are greater efforts being made to reduce the cases of infants with hepatitis by administering them with a dose of the HBV vaccine. Last year, the FDA approved two new HCV treatments, which are simpler, require a shorter duration of treatment, and have far less side effects.
The Affordable Care Act is aiding in the efforts to fight hepatitis by getting coverage to more people, increasing hepatitis vaccinations in pregnant women, and putting more investment in the HHS community health center program. The White House has also aided in the campaign against hepatitis. President Obama gave his support to the global observance of World Hepatitis Day for the past three years. All these adjustments and more will help the updated Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis to be effective in saving as many lives as possible.