WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. health officials say the first national Hepatitis Testing Day, set for this weekend, is meant to remind people to get tested for chronic viral hepatitis.
"Millions of Americans have chronic viral hepatitis, but up to 75 percent of those infected do not know it. The federal government's action plan for combating the silent epidemic of viral hepatitis designated Saturday as the first-ever National Hepatitis Testing Day," Dr. Howard Koh, the assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. "This day is part of a larger government-wide initiative to educate people about viral hepatitis and to encourage everyone to talk to their healthcare provider about whether they are at risk."
Thousands of Americans die every year from hepatitis-related liver disease and liver cancer, but lifesaving treatments are available that can limit disease progression and prevent cancer deaths, Roh said.
"In order to increase the number of people who get tested for viral hepatitis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created an online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool -- at www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/ -- which the Surgeon General and I are promoting through a series of public service announcements," Roh said. "This online tool will assess an individual's risk for viral hepatitis and generate a summary of recommendations for testing and vaccination that people can print and take to their doctor to discuss."