The Hepatitis B Foundation is calling for increased resources to improve hepatitis B vaccination rates and educate high-risk communities, in response to newly-released viral hepatitis surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC released the 2017 surveillance data on September 10, showing an estimated 22,000 new acute hepatitis B cases, an increase over the previous year. Thirty-two states saw increases in reported acute hepatitis B, continuing an upward trend over the past several years, with the highest rates among non-Hispanic White adults age 40-49. These increases are likely driven by the opioid crisis as well as low vaccination rates among adults.
CDC also reported that in 2017, there was a slight increase in overall mortality related to hepatitis B. Alarmingly, mortality rates increased for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), who shoulder a disproportionate burden of chronic hepatitis B infection. The 2017 death rate for AAPIs was over 5 times higher compared to other groups. Non-Hispanic Blacks also had increased mortality related to hepatitis B, possibly due to high rates of chronic hepatitis B in African immigrant communities.
Currently, only 25% of adults are protected from hepatitis B. Resources are needed to increase adult hepatitis B vaccination in the U.S., to prevent new cases of this serious liver infection.
“The newly released data confirm that while we have made strides in preventing hepatitis B, the trend of increasing acute hepatitis B cases in the U.S. continues. It is critical that we address hepatitis B as a serious consequence of the opioid crisis, by increasing activities and resources to improve vaccination, and ensuring that providers and public health professionals working in high-risk communities include hepatitis B education, testing and vaccination as part of their programming,” said Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Senior Vice President at the Hepatitis B Foundation.
“As we work towards hepatitis B elimination in the U.S., we must not forget the communities impacted the most by chronic hepatitis B infection,” said Kate Moraras, MPH, Senior Program Director, Hepatitis B Foundation. “It is disheartening to see continued disparities and increased deaths due to hepatitis B among AAPIs and African communities. We must improve hepatitis B testing and care for those chronically infected. Only through diagnosis, management and treatment can we save lives.”