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2021 World Hepatitis Day: Hepatitis Can’t Wait

Every year on July 28, World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is observed in over 100 countries with the aim to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and to encourage the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these five diseases affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic health issues, such as cirrhosis of the liver – and causing two in every three liver cancer deaths across the world.

Hepatitis B and C are especially dangerous viral strains. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes close to 1.34 million deaths per year to the two diseases on a worldwide basis. Today, it is estimated that more than 300 million people across the globe are living with the hepatitis B or C virus – often without knowing it.

Why? Unfortunately, these viruses may be asymptomatic for decades until severe complications occur. They can go undetected and untreated for 20+ years, which increases the possibility of developing fatal liver disease, and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.

Today, KJT is proud to support the 2021 WHD theme of ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait,’ by promoting the importance of hepatitis C screening and sharing findings from past Hep-C research, sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22813094/

This US-based study, titled “Comparison of current US risk strategy to screen for hepatitis C virus with a hypothetical targeted birth cohort strategy” examines the results of risk-based screening methodologies, as compared to a targeted birth cohort strategy, focused on Baby Boomers born 1946-1964 (the population segment accounting for approximately 3/4 of chronic HCV infections among US adults).

The report models theoretical results for both birth cohort and risk-based hepatitis C screening methods (the latter of which was enacted in 1998 by the CDC) – taking into account the significant discrepancy between the theoretical efficacy of risk factor screening and current estimates of the undiagnosed population, which indicates that implementation of this approach is impeded by such challenges as the stigma associated with disclosing high-risk activities (intravenous drug use, etc.) and the failure of physicians to consistently ask about them.

Due to the limited success of risk factor screening alone, the CDC augmented its guidance in 2012 to reflect a complementary approach to diagnostics, combining both risk-based hepatitis C screening alongside a birth cohort strategy with the recommendation that one-time hepatitis C screening also be done for persons born 1945–1965 (birth cohort) without ascertainment of risk.

Today, in an effort to further expand the reach of hepatitis C screening, the CDC now recommends that all adults be tested at least once, with more frequent testing for those who fall into high-risk categories. It is also recommended that pregnant women get tested during each pregnancy, except in settings where the prevalence of HCV infection is <0.1%.

While these have been improvements, the numbers below (provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services) tell us strengthened guidance for hepatitis C testing is still needed:

  • An estimated 2.4 million people are living with Hep C in the US today
  • Only 56% of persons with HCV infection reported having ever been told they had the disease
  • Around 13,000 US citizens die from hepatitis C and its complications each year
  • The disease is the number one reason for liver transplant surgery

Please join us in recognizing World Hepatitis Day and help spread awareness of the serious health risk posed by viral hepatitis. If you’re interested in other KJT reports or published works, please visit: https://kjtgroup.com/publications/