CDC: Viral Hepatitis on the Decline

Calling it “one of the big public-health success stories of the last 10 years,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the incidence of acute viral hepatitis is at a 40-year low. The CDC credits an expanded immunization program for the dramatic decline in reported cases of hepatitis A and B.

According to CDC figures, the number of hepatitis A cases has declined 88 percent since 1995, and the number of hepatitis B cases has dropped 79 percent since 1990. “The drops in new cases of hepatitis A and hepatitis B are evidence that our prevention strategies have been successful, particularly the widespread use of vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “In order for these declines to continue, our prevention efforts must be sustained.”

The CDC recommends that children between the age of 12 and 23 months be vaccinated against hepatitis A and that three doses of hepatitis B vaccine be given beginning at birth. They also point out that the decline in hepatitis cases was mostly found among children and that “the number of new infections remains high particularly among unvaccinated adults.” In 2005, more than 100,000 new cases of viral hepatitis were reported.

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