An urgent need for action to fight chronic hepatitis

Viral hepatitis in the United States can be viewed from two perspectives simultaneously: as a glass half full and a glass half empty. On the one hand, thanks to public health efforts, new viral hepatitis infections are at the lowest levels in decades. On the other hand, up to 5.3 million Americans are infected with chronic, or "lifelong," viral hepatitis, and most of these people don't know they are infected. To help prevent the serious liver-related diseases that can occur in people living with viral hepatitis infection, in 2011 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a viral hepatitis action plan for the prevention, care, and treatment of viral hepatitis. The action plan outlined specific steps to be undertaken by each HHS agency to reach prevention goals and included timelines to help ensure prompt action. Much progress has been made since the release of this report.

In 2012 CDC augmented its existing risk-based hepatitis C testing guidelines, recommending that all persons born during 1945-1965 receive one-time HCV testing. Because people born during these years have high rates of hepatitis C infection, this recommendation will help increase the numbers of infected people who know their infection status, which is the first step towards receiving needed care and treatment.

CDC recently revised its HCV laboratory testing algorithm to include a confirmatory test, The new recommendation will help public health professionals better estimate rates of infection and help ensure that people who test positive for hepatitis C infection know whether their infection is still capable of harming their liver. Such knowledge can help providers and patients make important treatment-related decisions.

Public-private partnerships boost CDC's capacity, amplify messages

Despite the progress that has been made in achieving prevention goals, much more needs to be done. CDC hepatitis experts recognize the importance of public-private partnerships in achieving the momentum and resources needed to undertake the multiple programs needed to be implemented to improve the nation's overall awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis. Without support from outside partners, many such programs would take years to get off the ground.

Many private-sector organizations recognize the importance of CDC’s viral hepatitis programs and are providing financial support through grants to the CDC Foundation. The CDC Foundation’s Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition helps this growing list of outside partners stay connected with CDC and with one another. Currently, CDC programs made possible by support from Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition members include: 

  • Educating Providers and Communities
    Leveraging public awareness campaigns to address health disparities
  • Improving Testing, Care, and Treatment
    Evaluating and promoting adoption of HCV screening recommendations, improving linkage to care, and implementing standards of care and treatment in primary care
  • Strengthening Surveillance
    Conducting a population-based longitudinal cohort study and applying innovative surveillance approaches to monitor viral hepatitis transmission and disease 
    Learn More >
  • Global Initiatives
    Providing technical assistance and support to countries with a high burden of viral hepatitis, in particular China, Egypt, Georgia, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam

About CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis

CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) is part of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. In collaboration with domestic and global partners, DVH provides the scientific and programmatic foundation and leadership for the prevention and control of hepatitis virus infections and their manifestations.

DVH consists of three branches — the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, the Prevention Branch, and the Laboratory Branch — that work collaboratively to prevent viral hepatitis infections and associated liver disease. Learn More