Month: May 2016

LETTER: Dr. John Ward, CDC, recaps National Hepatitis Awareness Month

Below is a partner letter from Dr. John Ward, Director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing the release of DVH’s 2016-2020 strategic plan. The letter also recaps Hepatitis Awareness Month activities and highlights several hepatitis B and C reports and campaigns that have been released over the past few weeks.

May 24, 2016

May is National Hepatitis Awareness MonthDear Colleagues,
During May, CDC and our public health partners are celebrating National Hepatitis Awareness Month, with May 19th designated as Hepatitis Testing Day. These observances provide opportunities to raise awareness of viral hepatitis in the United States and to shed light on this large but under-recognized viral hepatitis epidemic. CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) has released a 5-year strategic plan  (2016-2020) describing our efforts to decrease incidence and prevalence of viral hepatitis, decrease morbidity and mortality from viral hepatitis, and reduce viral hepatitis-related health disparities.
Viral hepatitis takes a tremendous toll on the lives of many persons in the United States.  As reported in the 2014 viral hepatitis surveillance report, the U.S. is continuing to identify persons newly infected with viral hepatitis, new reports of persons living with viral hepatitis, and deaths associated with viral hepatitis.  Overall, as many as 2.2 million and 3.5 million people are living with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, respectively with a significant increase in new HCV cases reported among young people who inject drugs. Together, these infections represent the primary cause of chronic liver disease and liver cancer as shown in the recent annual report to the nation on the status of cancer.
Now is the time to work together to increase awareness of viral hepatitis and encourage viral hepatitis testing.  Half of the persons living with HBV or HCV do not know they are infected. Only through testing and knowledge of infection status can persons infected with HBV or HCV receive the care and treatment needed to vastly improve their health outcomes.
HBV represents a major health disparity for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (AAPI).  CDC’s Know Hepatitis B education campaign has new material available in multiple languages to inform AAPIs about the benefits of knowing one’s status and receiving recommended care and treatment for HBV.
HCV disproportionately affects persons born from 1945–1965. CDC and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)  recommend a one-time hepatitis C test for all persons born from 1945 –1965.  CDC’s Know More Hepatitis campaign has new material available to educate persons born from 1945–1965 about the importance of being tested for HCV.  There is good news for persons who test positive for HCV as highly effective, safe therapies are now available that can cure 90% or more of patients who complete therapy.
Despite advances in treatment, HCV-related deaths continue to climb. A CDC study, published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, reveals that more persons die from HCV than 60 other infectious diseases reported to CDC.  This trend can be reversed by increasing the proportion of persons tested for HCV along with the proportion of HCV-infected persons referred for care and treatment.
The number of persons becoming infected with HCV is also on the rise in the United States, particularly in certain populations. American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have the highest rates of new HCV infections among all racial/ethnic populations and are at increased risk of HCV-related morbidity and mortality compared to the general population.  Two reports published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) highlight programs that have successfully increased in the number of AI/AN tested for HCV; the greatest increases in HCV testing occurred among AI/AN born from 1945-1964. The article, “Identification and Clinical Management of Persons with Chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Infection in the Cherokee Nation, 2012-2015” reports a five-fold increase in testing from 3,337 persons initially tested to 16,772 tested by 2015. The second report, “Birth Cohort Screening for Hepatitis C Virus in the Indian Health Service 2012-2015”  reports an increase in testing from a baseline of 8% to 33% among AI/AN nationwide. These two AI/AN HCV testing programs use of clinical decision tools, provider education, and care models can serve as examples of best practices for other settings seeking to improve HCV testing and linkage to care for persons with HCV.  To facilitate implementation of CDC’s viral hepatitis testing recommendations in diverse settings, CDC developed the Hepatitis Testing and Linkage to Care (HepTLC) initiative, which is featured in a recently released supplemental issue of Public Health Reports.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) recently released the Eliminating the Public Health Problem of Hepatitis B and C in the United States: Phase One Report.  The expert panel determined that achievement of feasible elimination goals for HBV and HCV was possible but that sufficient resources, commitment, and energy would be needed to overcome barriers for reaching eliminations goals.  The follow-up (Phase Two) report, due to be released in early 2017, is expected to include specific recommendations and targets for elimination.
On Thursday, May 19, 2016, the White House, in collaboration with HHS, hosted a National Hepatitis Testing Day Observance.  The theme of the event was “Responding to Viral Hepatitis in the United States.” Presentations and panel discussions with senior White House and Administration officials, clinical and public health experts, and people affected by viral hepatitis and HIV focused on the importance of testing for viral hepatitis, the increase in new hepatitis infections related to the opioid abuse and heroin epidemic, and key opportunities to improve the health of people living with HIV and viral hepatitis coinfection. A video of the event is available at
Additional resources are available via CDC’s webpage, including Resources for Hepatitis Awareness Month.
I thank each of you for your hard work and commitment to preventing new viral hepatitis infections and reducing viral-hepatitis-associated morbidity and mortality in the United States. Collaboration is a key component toward meeting our mutual prevention goals.  DVH colleagues and I look forward to working with you during National Hepatitis Awareness Month and beyond to improve the lives of millions of HBV- and HCV-infected persons, and to prevent others from becoming infected.


John W. Ward,
Division of Viral Hepatitis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


7.1 million lives to be saved if governments agree to eliminate global killer

RELEASE May 25, 2016



Liver Health Connection is calling on the United States to support the adoption of World Health Organization’s first ever Elimination Strategy for Viral Hepatitis at the World Health Assembly

DENVER — This week, the United States will join 193 countries to change the course of history for viral hepatitis. At the 69th World Health Assembly, taking place from 23-28 May 2016, governments will decide to adopt or reject the Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on viral hepatitis, 2016 – 2021, which sets a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis B and C by 2030.

LiverHealthConnectionLogoKIn the United States an estimated 20,000 people die every year from hepatitis C, a disease that kills more people than any other infectious disease in US – yet it suffers from a lack of awareness and political de-prioritization. The GHSS strategy signals a new commitment. It includes a set of prevention and treatment targets that will reduce annual deaths by 65% and increase treatment to 80%, saving 7.1 million lives by 2030 globally.

“We are at a turning point for viral hepatitis. Elimination is finally within our reach but it is imperative that governments commit to the strategy if we are to achieve it.” said Linda Pryor, board chair of Liver Health Connection. “Saving lives will not only reduce the immense personal cost of viral hepatitis, but will also save money as health systems will no longer have to deal with large numbers of patients suffering from the consequences of untreated hepatitis.”

The strategy outlines a number of key targets that, if reached by 2030, would eliminate hepatitis B and C as a public health threat:

•    90% of infants receive a hepatitis b birth dose vaccination
•    100% of blood donations screened
•    90% of injections are safe
•    90% of people aware of their illness
•    80% of people treated

Governments have already committed to combating viral hepatitis in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (Target 3.3). The GHSS and the implementation of national plans will be key to meeting this target, along with a number of specific actions, including a dramatic scale up of prevention, testing and treatment.

Ahead of the Assembly, Liver Health Connection and the World Hepatitis Alliance are calling on governments to support the adoption of the strategy and the targets, and be part of eliminating a global killer.

Pryor added “If governments reject the strategy, viral hepatitis will continue to be overlooked and under-prioritized and the opportunity to save 7.1 million lives will be denied.”

Find out more about the World Health Assembly and follow live webcasts from the event here. You can also watch the World Hepatitis Alliance animated strategy video here.


Animated Video About the Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy
At the 69th World Health Assembly (23-28 May 2016) governments will decide the fate of viral hepatitis. They will either adopt or reject the first Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy, which sets a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis B and C by 2030. If adopted and implemented, annual deaths will be reduced by 65% and treatment will increase to 80%, saving 7.1 million lives by 2030 globally.

About Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, and globally kills more than 1.4 million people every year. There are five different hepatitis viruses – hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis A is spread mainly through ingestion of contaminated food and water and there are an estimated 1.4 million cases each year. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person and approximately 240 million people are living with chronic infections. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact such as unsafe injection practices and inadequate sterilization of medical equipment. Hepatitis D is passed on through contact with infected blood and only occurs in those who are already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis E, like hepatitis A, is transmitted through ingesting contaminated food or water.

Liver Health Connection

Colorado’s Liver Health Connection (formerly Hep C Connection) is the nation’s second largest hepatitis C patient advocacy organization. For more than 20 years, Liver Health Connection promotes liver health and provides education to patients, providers, government officials and the public to support and advocate on behalf of those affected by liver diseases.

Media Contacts

Dede Laugesen • Media Relations, Liver Health Connection • 719-659-3121 •
Nancy Steinfurth • Executive Director, Liver Health Connection • 720-917-3965 •
Karen Chappelow • Community Outreach Director, Liver Health Connection • 720-917-3960 •


President’s Proclamation for National Hepatitis Testing Day, 2016

Proclamation 9450 of May 18, 2016

A Proclamation

presidential-sealIn the United States, hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types of viral hepatitis—affecting between 3.5 and 6.9 million people and claiming the lives of thousands of our fellow Americans each year. Because of the persistent efforts of researchers, advocates, and so many others in the medical and public health communities, we have made great strides in advancing treatment of and finding cures for viral hepatitis. Individuals living with hepatitis B and C can only benefit from these advances if they are tested and made aware of their disease. On National Hepatitis Testing Day, we reaffirm the importance of educating people about viral hepatitis, and we encourage individuals at risk for hepatitis B and hepatitis C to get tested.


Panel recommends giving hepatitis C drugs to more Pa. Medicaid patients

hepc2MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – A state advisory committee, wading into one of the most fraught issues facing health-care policymakers, recommended Tuesday that Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program pay to treat all patients infected with hepatitis C.

The recommendation led to cheers – instead of the planned chants – from a dozen advocates who had been standing by quietly, not expecting the vote to go their way.

The first new treatments that can effectively cure more than 90 percent of hepatitis C infections began coming on the market two years ago. They cost up to $80,000 for a course of treatment, although Medicaid programs get discounts that can cut that amount in half.

COLORADO TEST SITES: National Hepatitis Testing Day

National Hepatitis Testing Day is May 19, 2016
Free tests are being offered in Colorado communities. See below for a list of locations and times. Get tested! Get Cured!
Liver Health Connection
• Webb Municipal Building — Atrium, 201 W. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Denver Indian Health and Family Service
• 1633 Fillmore Street, Denver, CO; 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP)
• 2118 14th Street, Boulder, CO; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Southern Colorado Health Network
• 1301 South 8th St, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO; 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Appointment only – Call 719-578-9092 to make an appointment
Western Colorado AIDS Project
• 805 Main St — rear entrance, Grand Junction, CO; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; 970-243-2437
Northern Colorado AIDS Project (NCAP)
• Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope, 242 Conifer St., Fort Collins, CO; 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Boulder County Public Health (Offering two sites)
• 3482 N. Broadway, Boulder, CO; 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Appointment only – Call 303-413-7500 to make an appointment
• 515 Coffman, Suite 200, Longmont, CO; 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Appointment only – Call 303-678-6166 to make an appointment
Denver County AIDS Project (DCAP)
• 2490 W. 26th Ave, #300A, Denver, CO; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
• 1720 Pearl Street, Denver, CO; 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Jefferson County Public Health Clinic
• 645 Parfet Street, Lakewood, CO; 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; 303-239-7078
Tri-County Health Department — Park Centre Office
• 1401 W. 122nd Ave., Westminster, CO; 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

May 19: FREE hepatitis C blood tests for National Hepatitis Testing Day

NHTD-03DENVER — Free hepatitis C blood screenings will be offered throughout Colorado May 19, America’s 5th annual National Hepatitis Testing Day. This is an opportunity for people at risk to be tested, and for health care providers to educate patients about chronic viral hepatitis and treatments.

“Hepatitis represents a serious and growing public health threat,” says Nancy Steinfurth, executive director of Liver Health Connection, a Colorado patient advocacy organization. “As many as 17,000 hepatitis C (HCV) related deaths occur annually in the United States. These rates are expected to peak between the years 2030 and 2035 at 36,000 deaths per year.”

The Health of Denver Report for 2014 shows deaths locally from HCV have increased sharply in the past 10 years. In response, Denver-based Liver Health Connection and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in partnership with other non-profits and public health organizations, will host free testing for anyone concerned they may have HCV. The fast-response test requires a quick finger prick, and results are returned in 20 minutes. Those who test positive will be given information and resources for follow-up testing and care.

In Colorado, an estimated 70,000 people have HCV. But the news is mostly good. While no vaccine has been approved for HCV, new treatments can cure the virus in more than 95 percent of patients.

“Liver Health Connection provides patients with linkage to care and works with legislators, on behalf of patients, to gain greater access to treatment through Medicaid,” Steinfurth said.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
People with acute hepatitis may have no symptoms, or they may experience jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
The World Health Organization recognizes five main hepatitis viruses, including types A, B, C, D and E. These five are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause, and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people globally and, combined statistically, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

“Early detection is the best defense against the ravages of hepatitis,” explains Steinfurth.

Anyone can be tested for HCV, but Liver Health Connection and the CDPHE especially recommend testing for those born between 1945 and 1965. Also at risk are those who had a blood transfusion or a blood product like Rhogam before 1992, obtained a tattoo outside of a licensed facility, or injected or snorted drugs – even once. In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says men who have had sex with other men should be tested.

Colorado test sites are listed below. For more information about hepatitis in Colorado, visit the Step Up to Hep Colorado blog.

National Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States is part of an educational initiative of the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, Updated 2014-2016.


Colorado Test Sites for National Hepatitis Testing Day, PDF