The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their national progress report on viral hepatitis elimination in the United States, which measures progress towards achieving 2020 goals. The report reveals ongoing challenges, underscoring the importance of increasing focus on federal hepatitis B virus (HBV) research and funding, according to leaders at the Hepatitis B Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit research and disease advocacy organization.
The CDC report reveals continuing challenges in addressing the public health threat of hepatitis B, with new increases in rates of acute hepatitis B infection among adults, particularly those between the ages of 30 and 59 years. The recent spike in acute HBV infections is attributed to increases in injection drug use related to the ongoing opioid crisis.
Additionally, the report shows little progress made in the percentage of newborns who receive the hepatitis B vaccine within 3 days of birth at 74.5%, well below the 2020 goal of 85 percent. The low rates of HBV birth dose rates across the country means babies are particularly vulnerable to chronic HBV infection, slowing the nation’s progress towards elimination of perinatal hepatitis B transmission. In the U.S., it is estimated that about 1,200 infants become infected with hepatitis B at birth.
“Hepatitis B clearly remains a serious public health problem in the U.S. We must improve our efforts and strategies to increase HBV vaccination coverage among both adults and infants,” said Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, vice president for public health and programs at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Hep B United coalition co-chair.
“More importantly, in order to make real progress towards achieving our goals to eliminate hepatitis B, we must collect data and measure the rates of chronic HBV infection, which affects the majority of individuals in the U.S. Without national surveillance of chronic HBV infection, we are not measuring our progress in screening, linkage to care, and treatment.”
The report also showed a decrease in HBV-related deaths in 2015 at 0.45 per 100,000, revealing large disparities among men and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who experience more than 3 times higher the rate of HBV-related deaths.