New CDC surveillance data shows a worsening viral hepatitis epidemic and demonstrates the need for a comprehensive approach and added investment to address the viral hepatitis and opioid use syndemic.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2021
Molly Hall: (202) 210-9955
Washington, D.C. – The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR), a national coalition working to eliminate viral hepatitis, today urged Congress and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take action and address the sharp increases in viral hepatitis rates by increasing funding for the Department of Viral Hepatitis and fully implementing the 2021-2025 National Strategic Hepatitis Plan. New surveillance data from the CDC shows that the hepatitis epidemic in the U.S. is worsening – despite the availability of vaccines, treatments, and cures.
Viral hepatitis is a preventable public health threat which can cause liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death. The CDC recently released the latest Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Report, which summarizes key data related to reported hepatitis A, B, and C cases. Key findings from the surveillance report include:
- Hepatitis A Cases Surge Among Unhoused Persons and People Who Use Injection Drugs. Acute hepatitis A cases increased 1,325 percent from 2015-2019, due to ongoing person-to-person outbreaks despite the availability of an effective vaccine.
- 80 percent of Hepatitis B Cases Occur Among Persons aged 30-59. Hepatitis B is preventable with an effective vaccine, which has been recommended for routine vaccination among children beginning in 1991. Adults born before 1991 should check with their healthcare providers about getting vaccinated.
- Hepatitis C Cases Surge Despite Availability of Cure. Acute hepatitis C cases increased 63 percent from 2015-2019, driven in large part by the ongoing opioid use epidemic and rise in use of injection drugs. Treatment barriers in many states also keep Medicaid patients from accessing curative treatment.
“The current approach and resource levels for addressing the viral hepatitis epidemic are inadequate and the 117th Congress and the Biden Administration must make addressing the consequences of the opioid epidemic a priority in order to combat rising viral hepatitis rates. The new CDC report underscores the need to fully fund the Division of Viral Hepatitis and the Infectious Diseases and Opioid Epidemic Program,” said Daniel Raymond, Director of Policy at NVHR. “The federal government should also work with state governments and public health leaders to remove barriers to viral hepatitis treatment and care.”
Viral hepatitis rates continue rising in the U.S. as a consequence of the ongoing opioid use epidemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic has likely worsened current rates. However, insufficient federal funding, discriminatory treatment restrictions, and lack of access to evidence-based prevention strategies limit current efforts to mitigate the hepatitis epidemic.
The Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership (of which NVHR is a member), estimates that the CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis needs at least $134 million to strengthen the public health infrastructure to combat viral hepatitis and improve testing and treatment. In addition, they estimate that the Infectious Diseases and Opioid Epidemic Program needs at least $120 million to fully treat opioid-related infectious disease outbreaks, including hepatitis C.
“The syndemic of viral hepatitis, HIV, STIs, and substance use disorders requires an integrated, whole-of-government approach in order to make progress and provide the services that at-risk communities need to move the U.S. towards elimination of viral hepatitis,” added Raymond.
For more information about viral hepatitis, please visit www.nvhr.org.
About the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR)
The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, an initiative of HEP, is a national coalition fighting for an equitable world free of viral hepatitis. NVHR seeks to eliminate viral hepatitis in the United States and improve the lives of those affected through advocacy, education, and support to national, state and local partners. For more information, visit www.nvhr.org