Government and Regulations

Viral Hepatitis Awareness


As federal, state, and local partners work to “shed light on this hidden [viral hepatitis] epidemic,” the HHS, the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, and the VA published their joint updated Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (2014-2016).

In 2007, annual deaths in the U.S. due to viral hepatitis outpaced deaths due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) for the first time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet “[a]wareness is inexplicably low,” says the World Hepatitis Alliance, a nongovernmental organization. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the U.S. It is also a leading infectious cause of death, killing 12,000 to 18,000 Americans each year.

Between 3.5 and 5.3 million Americans live with chronic viral hepatitis, the CDC says. But advances in treatment of hepatitis C (HCV), more widely available effective vaccines for hepatitis A and B (HBV), and more opportunities for testing for HCV under the Affordable Care Act are having an effect. (There is no vaccine to prevent HCV; the best way to prevent it is to avoid risky behaviors, such as sharing needles, according to the CDC.) With the updated plan, HHS hopes to build on the “substantial progress” made since 2011.

Like the original plan, which was the first comprehensive cross-agency plan to combat viral hepatitis, the updated version has 4 main goals:

  • Increase the proportion of people who are aware of the HBV infection from 33% to 66%;
  • Increase the proportion of people who are aware of their HCV infection from 45% to 66%;
  • Reduce the number of new cases of HCV infection by 25%; and
  • Eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HBV.

The updated plan also proposes more than 150 action steps, organized into 6 priority areas: (1) educating providers and communities to reduce viral hepatitis-related health disparities; (2) improving testing, care, and treatment to prevent liver disease and cancer; (3) strengthening surveillance to detect viral hepatitis transmission and disease; (4) eliminating transmission of vaccine-preventable viral hepatitis; (5) reducing viral hepatitis caused by drug use; and (6) protecting patients and workers from health care-associated viral hepatitis.

To assess whether or not an individual should get tested or vaccinated for viral hepatitis, the CDC offers a 5-minute, online personalized Hepatitis Risk Assessment at For more information on World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2014, organized by the World Hepatitis Alliance, visit

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