Today is the 5th National Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States. It falls during the 21st Hepatitis Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hepatitis C causes approximately 90 percent deaths from viral hepatitis in the U.S. As stated in my blog last week, deaths related to chronic hep C infection surpassed the total number of deaths from 60 other nationally notifiable infectious diseases. Here is more information is from the CDC:
- Acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection increased more than 2.5 times from 2010–2014.
- Mortality among HCV-infected persons is increasing; more than one-half of deaths occurring among people aged 55-64 years.
- We don’t know the true mortality statistics because among HCV-infected patients whose death certificate listed a liver-related cause of death, 59% did not have hep C listed as a cause of death.
- The greatest hepatitis C burden falls on baby boomers (born from 1945 to 1965) many of whom have unknowingly been living with the infection for many years. According to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases earlier this year, many baby boomers were infected during medical procedures in the years after World War II, when injection and blood transfusion technologies were not as safe as they are today. Without diagnosis and treatment, they increasingly develop liver cancer and other life-threatening hepatitis C-related diseases, and they may unknowingly transmit the disease to others.
- The incidence and mortality rate among American Indian/Alaska Natives were approximately twofold greater than the comparable rates for the general population. During 2012–2015, first-time testing for HCV increased five-fold.
- A key public health challenge is to increase the proportion of persons tested, and of those who are currently infected, increase the proportion referred for care and treatment.
How many people and agencies need to recommend testing and linkage to care before this madness stops? Or worse, how many more people will die?