May 3, 2013
Concord, NH - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Know More Hepatitis” campaign was officially announced on World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2011. This effort calls for a national campaign to educate people about viral hepatitis to reduce the burden of disease and to encourage people to get tested. As part of this initiative, May 19th has been designated as national “Hepatitis Testing Day” in the United States, and May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month.
Hepatitis Awareness Month is an opportunity to remind health care providers and the public about who should be tested for viral hepatitis. Millions of Americans have chronic viral hepatitis and most of them don’t know it. Chronic viral hepatitis is considered to be a “silent” disease because it progresses slowly and rarely causes symptoms until decades after infection. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are viruses that cause liver inﬂammation which can lead to other serious health conditions. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants. By the time a person shows symptoms, the damage to the liver has occurred. Unfortunately, it is estimated that up to 75% of those with chronic viral hepatitis don’t know they have it and aren’t getting treatment or making the lifestyle changes necessary to protect their health. In 2007, death from viral hepatitis C surpassed the HIV rate for the first time.
“Hepatitis is a virus that is passed through blood transmission (such as by needles), through sexual contact, or from mother to unborn child,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. “Many people apparently were infected years or decades ago, before as much was known about the viruses, and these cases are just now coming to light. You could be at risk and not know it.”
There are certain groups of people who are more at risk than others and are recommended to be tested for hepatitis C:
- Baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, before testing of the blood supply became standard
- Anyone who had a blood transfusion before July 1992
- Anyone who has ever injected drugs, even if it was once a long time ago
- People with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
- Anyone on hemodialysis
- People who have been exposed to blood on the job such as through a needle stick
- Those who have had a non-professional tattoo or piercing
The following groups are recommended to be tested for hepatitis B:
- People born in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Haiti, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, South America’s Amazon Basin, rural Alaska, or Hawaii; if you, your parents, or your children were born in any of these places, speak with your medical provider
- People with sexual or household contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis B
- Men who have or have ever had sex with men
- People who use injection drugs
- Pregnant women
- People with HIV
- People on hemodialysis
- Those on chemotherapy or other immunosuppressant drugs
For more information about hepatitis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HEPAwarenessMonth.htm. To take a free online assessment to determine your risk visit http://www.cdc.gov/HEPATITIS/riskassessment/. For questions or concerns about hepatitis, call the DHHS Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 603-271-4496 or 800-852-3345 x4496.