WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- As many as 5.3 million people in the United States have hepatitis B or C but most are unaware until they develop liver cancer or liver disease, researchers say.
An Institute of Medicine study found hepatitis is not widely recognized as a serious public health problem, and as a result, viral hepatitis prevention, control and surveillance programs have inadequate resources.
The report concludes the current approach to prevention and control of chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C is not working.
The Institute of Medicine recommends increased knowledge and awareness about chronic viral hepatitis among healthcare providers, social service providers and the public; improved surveillance for hepatitis B and hepatitis C; and better integration of viral hepatitis services.
The Institute of Medicine is calling for a major public health push to decrease the stigma of the hepatitis viruses, which are to blame for nearly half the liver transplants performed every year in the United States.
At present, the only hepatitis treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a cocktail of interferon and ribavirin, which must be administered in a 48-week course and is effective in less than half of patients.