May marks Hepatitis Awareness Month. There is a lot to be thankful for, as there has been a lot of inroads made in terms of curative therapy, vaccine development, and now the federal government is putting a major emphasis on getting people into the continuum of care. Still education is needed to help prevent the silent killer.
The following is guest commentary from The Liver Health Initiative.
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and with it comes a reminder of the accomplishments and developments on this front. There is a curative treatment for hepatitis C, vaccines and therapies in development for hepatitis B (HBV), and a possible therapy coming for hepatitis D treatment.
Still, even with the inroads made in therapies and vaccines, The Liver Health Initiative believes we need to call attention to issues that are missing in care for those who are infected with hepatitis. Specifically, how do we address the issues that are detrimental or harmful to patients health and their recovery? For example, how can we talk about hepatitis without mentioning the liver that is under attack?
Both obesity and misuse of alcohol add insult to injury to the livers of hepatitis-infected patients. Unfortunately, due to the fact that education about the liver has been absent in schools for decades most individuals who are infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C have little or no knowledge about the detrimental impact these silent viruses are having on their livers and its daily creation and support of hundreds of life sustaining body parts and functions.
We are reminded daily about obesity, but few people realize how their unhealthy diets are processed internally and just how they can contribute to the damage to liver cells called scarring or cirrhosis that underlies numerous diseases including fatty liver diseases, and the build up of plaque in major blood vessels that can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and eventually cancer.
Both the Biden Administration and the CDC are working towards raising awareness and getting more people into the continuum of care. Earlier this year, the administration put forth its annual budget, which they earmarked over $11 billion dollars for HCV care funding over the next 5 years. This program will expand testing, screening, prevention, and treatment of HCV, and will focus on the marginalized populations that are the greatest at risk.
Also this year, the CDC launched new recommendations for screening and testing for HBV. This was the first update since 2008, and offered some big changes including the CDC’s recommendation that all adults in the United States be universally tested for HBV at least once in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, the microscopic liver cells that serve as our personal life support system have no way of warning us of damage by hepatitis viruses, illicit drugs injected or ingested, or excess fat cells done by unhealthy diets.
Amazing vaccines and effective treatments are helping to win the war against vial hepatitis, however, we are losing the battle due to the lack of understanding about why and how to protect the miraculous non complaining liver.
As we mark this month, and remember we have come a long way, we also need to work towards greater education of our youth as well as our adults about liver health and develop the knowledge in trying to prevent viral hepatitis transmission.