Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States and worldwide, and while it is the most common blood-borne infection and a leading infectious cause of death -- claiming the lives of about 15,000 U.S. adults each year -- viral hepatitis often remains unrecognized as a public health priority, officials say.
"Hepatitis B and C are both preventable. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B and effective treatments," officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
"Hepatitis C is curable for many people, and, with the rapidly improving treatment landscape, there is hope for a higher cure rate in the near future."
HHS recently announced it will renew its landmark Viral Hepatitis Action Plan for 2014-16 to strengthen existing strategies to prevent new cases. The new plan will help ensure that people who are already infected receive testing, and linkage to care and treatment.
Early detection and treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C can reduce disease progression, limit transmission to others and prevent serious liver disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend adults born from 1945-65 be tested for hepatitis C.
"Talk with your doctor about whether you should be tested for hepatitis B or C," officials said. "People can also take an online risk assessment at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment."