May Is Hepatitis Awareness Month

By Dr. Ronald V., Guest blogger

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Our guest post today is from Ronald Valdiserri, MD, MPH, who serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Among other things, his office oversees implementation of the cross-government Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Released in May 2011, the Action Plan details robust 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. It calls for improved provider education regarding basic infection control across all health-care settings and improved oversight of long-term care and outpatient facilities to ensure compliance with proper infection-control procedures. These steps will help mitigate outbreaks of viral hepatitis in dialysis clinics. Read more about the Action Plan in these blog posts; and find information about hemodialysis and viral hepatitis on this page from CDC.

May 1st marks the start of the month-long observance of Hepatitis Awareness Month. The observance is an important element of government-wide efforts to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and decrease health disparities by educating communities about the benefits of viral hepatitis prevention, testing, care, and treatment.

Throughout the month of May, HHS and partners such as DPC and the DPC Education Center and other organizations who support the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis will be engaged in a variety of activities to increase awareness—among the public and healthcare providers—about viral hepatitis. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing several blog posts about implementation of the Action Plan.

On May 19, we will observe the second annual Hepatitis Testing Day. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected. This places them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increases the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.

Hepatitis Testing Day was established as a way to raise awareness and educate health care providers and the public about who should be tested for chronic viral hepatitis. Unfortunately, many communities and populations remain uninformed about viral hepatitis, including negative health effects, the need for testing and care, and the availability of vaccines (for hepatitis A and hepatitis B) and treatment. Populations at high risk for viral hepatitis include those such as injection drug users; people living with HIV; gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; baby boomers (people born between 1945-1965); African Americans; and Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Please join us in promoting both of these important observances—Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day—to enhance public awareness of viral hepatitis prevention, testing, care and treatment across the United States, especially in the kidney community. Here are a few things you can do:

1. Learn more about awareness activities, including testing events, taking place in communities around the country to mark Hepatitis Testing Day. This page from CDC allows people to search for Hepatitis Testing Day events taking place near them in May. Event organizers can also list their events.

2. Review the web badges, digital tools, fact sheets, posters and other resources available from CDC on this page and find one you can share in your clinic or with other patients.

3. Take this 5-minute online hepatitis risk assessment developed by the CDC and get a personalized secure report on hepatitis testing and vaccination recommendations.
4. Read more about the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan on our recently updated page.

5. Learn more about Hepatitis B and C in the following fact sheets here and here

Won’t you please commit to learning more yourself and/or sharing information about viral hepatitis with at least two other people this month? Working together, we can raise greater awareness about the epidemic of viral hepatitis in the United States and, in so doing, make great strides in improving the health of persons who are at risk for or living with viral hepatitis.

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