According to a new study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, less than half of adults who are infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the United States are aware of their infection. Therefore, opportunities exist for increasing awareness through provider education and expansion of existing screening interventions for groups that are at risk for hepatitis infections.

With the availability of effective HBV vaccines and curative HCV therapies, the elimination of chronic viral hepatitis is an attainable public health goal. However, lack of awareness of HBV and HCV diagnoses among affected individuals in the United States is a problem. Researchers sought to identify gaps in awareness of diagnosis of HBV or HCV infection in the United States by examining National Health and Nutrition Examinations Surveys data from 2013 through 2016. They found that of 14,745 participants, 68 had HBV and 211 had HCV infection. Among individuals who were infected with HBV, 32% reported awareness, and 28% of aware persons reported treatment. Among persons infected with HCV, 49% reported awareness, 45% of aware persons were treated, and 59% of treated patients achieved a sustained virologic response. For individuals infected with HBV, factors related to greater awareness included US citizenship, higher education, and abnormal levels of alanine aminotransferase. For individuals infected with HCV, not being Hispanic, having income above the poverty line, being unmarried, and having a history of injection drug use were related to greater awareness.

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The authors concluded that “Considering the low overall awareness of both HBV and HCV diagnoses, concurrent increased funding for high-quality implementation research and scale-up of screening and linkage to care campaigns across the US to augment rises in treatment access for viral hepatitis is warranted.”

Zhou K, Terrault NA. Gaps in viral hepatitis awareness in the United States in a population-based study [published online June 4, 2019]. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2019.05.047