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IOM report recommends steps to tackle hepatitis B and C
Date:1/11/2010

WASHINGTON -- Stepped-up vaccination requirements, a boost in resources for prevention and treatment, and a public awareness campaign similar to the effort that dispelled the stigma of HIV/AIDS are needed to curb the health threats posed by hepatitis B and hepatitis C, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

Chronic hepatitis B and C cause thousands of cases of liver cancer, liver disease, and death each year -- taking the heaviest toll among Asians, Pacific Islanders, and blacks in the U.S. -- and these infections account for nearly half of the liver transplantations that must be performed annually. Resources and efforts to contain the viruses that cause hepatitis B and C lag behind those directed at other infectious diseases of similar impact to public health, noted the committee that wrote the report.

"Although hepatitis B and C are preventable, the rates of infection have not declined over the past several years, underscoring the conclusion that we have allowed gaps in screening, prevention, and treatment to go unchecked," said committee chair R. Palmer Beasley, professor of epidemiology and disease control, University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston. "This report outlines the additional resources and actions needed to reduce the unacceptably high burden of liver disease and cancer associated with these viruses."

An estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million Americans have chronic hepatitis B and between 2.7 million and 3.9 million have chronic hepatitis C. The majority of infected individuals are not aware of their condition until they develop symptoms of liver cancer or liver disease. Few among the populations most at risk -- immigrants from countries where the diseases are endemic, non-Hispanic black men, injection-drug users, and people who had blood transfusions before 1992 -- seek testing or information on how to protect themselves from infection. Moreover, health care and social service providers' knowledge
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Contact: Christine Stencel
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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