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The American Liver Foundation Urges Cautious Optimism about CDC,Report on Declining Acute Hepatitis Infection Rates

Focus Must Remain on the Millions Still Suffering from Chronic Hepatitis B and C

NEW YORK, March 21, 2007 /PRNewswire/ -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that significant decline in the rates of new acute hepatitis infections in the United States in the last 10 years, reflecting the success of hepatitis A and B vaccination programs. The American Liver Foundation wants to highlight these positive results, but remind people that chronic hepatitis B and C are very serious diseases that affect over five million Americans and that the prevalence of chronic hepatitis C infection is actually increasing. This is in response to the article "Surveillance for Acute Viral Hepatitis -- United States, 2005," published by the CDC in their publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Acute, or short-term, infections are more common with hepatitis A and B and less likely to cause serious health problems than a chronic, or long-term, infection. Hepatitis A does not cause chronic infections. Only five percent of all adults infected with hepatitis B develop chronic infection, although 90 percent of infants infected with hepatitis B do develop chronic hepatitis B. On the other hand, hepatitis C becomes a chronic infection for 70-80% percent of those exposed to the virus.

"I was very pleased to read this report about the decline in acute hepatitis infections," said Dr. James Boyer, Chair of the Board of the American Liver Foundation and Director of the Liver Center at the Yale University Medical School. "But this good news must not let us forget the millions of Americans suffering with chronic hepatitis. Without diagnosis and treatment these people are in serious risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. Much more work needs to be done to combat hepatitis in this country."

With nearly two percent of Americans infected with the hepatitis C virus, the costs of this dise
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