Infectious Diseases

World Hepatitis Day

Did you know?

  • Approximately 500 million people around the world are currently infected with chronic hepatitis b or c
  • 1 in every 3 individuals will be exposed to hepatitis b or c in their lifetime

Due to the lack of routine screening programs, most hepatitis infected individuals will not receive testing until symptoms of liver disease develop. World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about this frequently overlooked set of diseases.

According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), “Hepatitis and Liver Cancer: A National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C” up to 5.3 million people, or 2% of the US population, are infected with hepatitis B or C. The IOM report attributes the lack of viral hepatitis awareness in the United States to inadequate education and inadequate funding. For example, in 2008 the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Tuberculosis Prevention had a budget of almost $1 billion and only 2% of it was allocated to viral hepatitis initiatives. The recommendations put forward in the report frequently site increasing the amount of laboratory testing conducted as a vital step in increasing the awareness of infection status and decreasing transmission rates.

In the event that the recommendations from the IOM report are implemented, it is likely that public health laboratories will play a key role in those initiatives. In 2009 APHL surveyed 51 public health laboratories to determine their viral hepatitis testing capabilities and capacities. The survey found that 88% of state public health laboratories (SPHLs) in the US perform or refer some level of hepatitis testing, indicating that SPHLs continue to play an important role in the diagnosis and surveillance of viral hepatitis infection in the United States. However, 58% of responding laboratories reported that the funding they currently receive is not enough to meet hepatitis testing needs in their state.

APHL is releasing the full survey report in observance of World Hepatitis Day and would like to recognize our members, colleagues and partners in the public health laboratory system who are working to reduce the burden of viral hepatitis around the world.

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