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World Hepatitis Day Gets Global Recognition

July 28 was recognized as World Hepatitis Day, garnering attention from news media worldwide.

The date was chosen to honor Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in 1967 and later developed an effective vaccine and won the Nobel Prize.



The World Health Organization (WHO), recognizing the day for the first time, produced a World Hepatitis Day Toolkit which includes fact sheets and frequently asked questions about viral hepatitis.

WHO estimates that Nearly 1 out of every 3 people world -- or about 2 billion people -- have been infected with HBV. Hepatitis B is endemic in much of Asia, and this figure includes people who were infected but cleared the virus and did not develop chronic disease. Approximately 1 in 12 people -- or more than 520 million people -- are thought to be living with chronic hepatitis B or C.

The complete toolkit is available online at http://www.who.int/entity/csr/disease/hepatitis/world_hepatitis_day/whd_2011_toolkit.pdf.

In the U.S. -- where an estimated 4-5 million people have hepatitis B or C -- President Barack Obama issued a proclamation recognizing World Hepatitis Day and the White House held an event for advocates, legislators, and people living with hepatitis, hosted by the Office of National AIDS Policy.

"We must make sure that this 'silent epidemic' does not go unnoticed by health professionals or by communities across our country," Obama said. "Our goal is to reduce the number of new infections, increase status awareness among people with hepatitis, and eliminate the transmission of hepatitis B from mothers to their children. The first step toward achieving these goals is raising public awareness of this life-threatening disease. We must work to reduce the stigma surrounding hepatitis, and to ensure that testing, information, counseling, and treatment are available to all who need it."

The full presidential proclamation can be read online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/07/27/presidential-proclamation-world-hepatitis-day.

The administration's Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis is available at http://www.hhs.gov/ash/initiatives/hepatitis/actionplan_viralhepatitis2011.pdf.

"In the United States, many if not most people living with hepatitis are not aware of their infection, and thus cannot benefit from the effective treatments that are available," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote in its own World Hepatitis Day statement.

"Lack of progress in countries with fewer resources has been directly related to the inability to implement what works -- providing clean water and guaranteeing a safe food supply, routinely offering the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine and ensuring that every child receives 3 doses, educating health care providers and at-risk people about the importance of being tested, improving infection control procedures in health care facilities, and raising awareness of risk among injection drug users," the statement continued. "We must redouble our commitment to ensure these effective tools are fully utilized to benefit all people at risk for viral hepatitis."

The full CDC statement is available at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/s0727_worldhepatitisday.html.

7/29/11

Sources

CDC. CDC Statement on World Hepatitis Day 2011. July 27, 2011.

B Obama. Presidential Proclamation--World Hepatitis Day. July 27, 2011.

R Valdiserri. White House Commemorates World Hepatitis Day 2011.Office of National AIDS Policy blog. July 28, 2011.

www.hivandhepatitis.com