Current awareness of chronic viral hepatitis infections in the United States remains suboptimal, according to study results published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis.

The researchers used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013-2016 to determine the current awareness rate of chronic viral hepatitis in the United States. The study included survey participants who underwent serology testing for chronic viral hepatitis (n=11,488). The researchers defined chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection by serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), HBV exposure by serum antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc), and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection by HCV RNA.

The results indicated that 33.9% of participants were aware of their chronic HBV infection, 11.7% were aware of their past HBV exposure, and 55.6% were aware of their HCV infection.

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The researchers found that participants with higher levels of education had significantly higher rates of HBV infection awareness. In addition, participants who were aged 40 to 60 years, women, non-Black race/ethnicity, born in the United States, with a high household income, and with health insurance were also more likely to be aware of their infection.

The results also demonstrated that HCV awareness was lowest in Hispanics, Asians, participants not born in the United States, participants who lived below the federal poverty level, and participants with low education levels.

“With these persistent gaps in diagnosis, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the [World Health Organization’s] goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030,” the researchers wrote. “Active public health policy to identify persons at risk and provide appropriate management is warranted.”

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Kim H, Yang JD, El-Serag HB, Kanwal F. Awareness of chronic viral hepatitis in the United States: an update from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [published online January 21, 2019]. J Viral Hepat. doi:10.1111/jvh.13060