Viral Hepatitis Action Plan: Spotlight on Hepatitis B
by Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Earlier this month, I blogged about some of the highlights of our recent efforts to implement Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (Action Plan). Today, I want to spotlight hepatitis B.
In the United States, an estimated 800,000–1.4 million persons are infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease; immunization programs for infants and adolescents have resulted in substantial declines in the incidence of HBV infection over the past 20 years. Nonetheless, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2008 an estimated 38,000 persons were newly infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV is spread in several ways: from mother to child at the time of birth, through exposure to infected blood, through injection-drug use, and through sexual contact. Rates of HBV infection are highest among adults, reflecting low hepatitis B vaccination coverage among persons with risks. In the United States, Asian Americans, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) make up less than 5% of the total population but account for more than half of all Americans living with chronic HBV infection.
Successful implementation of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan could result in a substantial increase in the proportion of individuals aware of their hepatitis B infection from the current level of 33% thereby enabling them to seek treatment as well as reduce transmission of the virus to others. The Action Plan calls for health care providers to become better aware of opportunities for preventing, treating, and caring for viral hepatitis, including HBV infections. By strengthening the capacity of state and local health departments to collect a core set of viral hepatitis surveillance data we can better monitor trends in disease and the long-term impact of prevention, care and treatment. In addition, the Plan aims to eliminate the transmission of hepatitis B from mother to child by, among other actions, ensuring that hospitals and birthing centers administer a “birth dose” of hepatitis B vaccine to all newborns prior to discharge.
Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, DC Honors Dr. Howard Koh
A successful community-based initiative that is committed to increasing awareness about HBV and improving prevention, care and treatment is the The Hepatitis B Initiative of DC (HBI-DC ). Recently, this non-profit organization presented an award to Dr. Howard Koh, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Assistant Secretary for Health. HBI-DC presented the “Hep B Super Hero Award” to Dr. Koh for his leadership in fighting viral hepatitis at the national level.
Upon receiving the award, Dr. Koh noted that efforts of community-based advocates, educators, and providers like HBI-DC are essential to accomplishing the goals of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan. “I look forward to continuing our collaboration to confront and combat the silent epidemic of viral hepatitis. I am confident that, together, we can succeed in protecting this nation against the needless disease, pain, suffering, and death caused by viral hepatitis,” he remarked.
“No one needs to die from this silent killer,” concurred Ms. Jane Pan, Executive Director of HBI-DC. “Find out your hepatitis status before it’s too late. Ask your doctor if you are at risk and if so, to test you for viral hepatitis,” she said. HBI-DC is dedicated to preventing hepatitis B infection and its deadly consequences among Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, African newcomers, and other high-risk groups in the DC metro area through culturally and linguistically appropriate education, screening, vaccination, and treatment referrals offered at no charge or very low cost to participants.
Read more about the HHS Plan for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Healthwhich Dr. Koh is leading and has as its very first goal is to prevent, treat and control Hepatitis B infections in AANHPI communities.
Ms. Corinna Dan, RN, MPH, contributed to this post. Ms. Dan recently joined our team at the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy to help coordinate activities related to the implementation and monitoring of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis.