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Hepatitis Rates Plummet in the U.S

There is good news for a change, from the Centers for Disease Control// and Prevention, U.S.

According to CDC officials, hepatitis statistics have decreased significantly in their count, over the last decade.

The officials attribute this mainly to routine hepatitis immunizations, in children.

The CDC reports that more than 100,000 Americans were infected with hepatitis viruses in 2005, compared to about 500,000 in 1995.

Hepatitis A, B and C are the three most commonly occurring forms of acute viral hepatitis in the United States.

Hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cancer and death.

From 1995 to 2005, new cases of reported acute hepatitis A plummeted by 88 percent to an incidence rate of 1.5 per 100,000 people. During the same period, reported cases of acute hepatitis B plunged 79 percent to a rate of 1.8 per 100,000 people, according to CDC figures.

Epidemiologist Annemarie Wasley of the CDC, expressed satisfaction with the prevention efforts taken by health authorities ,in promoting the widespread use of hepatitis A and B vaccines.

"Rates are declining for all ages, but much of the decline is driven by declining rates in children, which is the age group that has been covered by routine vaccination for both hepatitis A and B," Wasley said.

She also encouraged more efforts to ‘drive down rates among intravenous drug users, homosexuals and heterosexuals with multiple sex partners’.

Hepatitis A, B and C are viruses that cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is often spread through ingesting food that has been contaminated with fecal material. Unlike those infected with hepatitis B or C, those who recover from hepatitis A cannot transmit the disease.

Hepatitis B is often spread through sexual contact or exposure to contaminated blood. Hepatitis C is also caused by exposure to contaminated blood, especially through blood transfusions or the sharing o f hypodermic needles.

Hepatitis A is generally not considered to be as dangerous as hepatitis B or C, which can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and even death.

About 4.5 million Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B or a third form of the disease, Hepatitis C.

While vaccinations against hepatitis A and B have been available for several years, there is no vaccine yet against hepatitis C.

Kevin Fenton, the director of the CDC division that manages viral infections such as HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis lauded the CDC announcement as: “one of the big public-health success stories of the last 10 years.”

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