May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about and recognize the impact of viral hepatitis in the United States. Viral hepatitis is a leading public health threat in the United States, contributing to cirrhosis, liver cancer and transplants, and—prior to the COVID-19 pandemic—more deaths than any other infectious disease. Despite the availability of highly effective vaccines against hepatitis A (HAV) and B (HBV), more than 30 states have reported hepatitis A outbreaks in recent years and progress against HBV has stalled. Meanwhile, hepatitis C incidence increased 3.5-fold between 2010 and 2017. Stigma, discrimination, and social and structural barriers that impede access to hepatitis and harm reduction services contribute to significant inequities in the impact of viral hepatitis in the United States.
Local health departments (LHDs) play a critical role in the prevention and control of viral hepatitis. They are leaders in the fight against viral hepatitis, engaged in surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. However, LHDs need robust funding to scale up and address inequities in access to hepatitis and harm reduction services. Below are a variety of resources to help you learn more about viral elimination efforts and plan how your organization can raise awareness about viral hepatitis this May:
- Learn more about hepatitis in the United States:
- Take a deeper dive into the critical role LHDs play in the prevention elimination of viral hepatitis:
- In July 2020, NACCHO surveyed its HIV, STI, & Viral Hepatitis Sentinel Network. The survey revealed that LHDs lead a coordinated response to the syndemic of hepatitis, HIV and other STIs, and substance use at the local level, but limited funding, staffing challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic impact LHDs’ ability to prevent and ultimately eliminate viral hepatitis. Check out the full report to learn more about the survey findings.
- Addressing Hepatitis A Outbreaks During COVID-19: Challenges, Opportunities & Innovations - This webinar characterized the widespread, person-to-person outbreaks of hepatitis A occurring across the United States, the role local health departments play in the prevention and control of viral hepatitis, and the evolution of the hepatitis A response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The recording of the webinar can be found here.
- Advancing Hepatitis Elimination & Equity in Harm Reduction Settings - The past decade has presented new challenges and opportunities for the elimination of hepatitis C virus (HCV), the leading infectious disease killer in the United States. The increase in injection drug use (IDU) has catalyzed its spread, resulting in 50,000 cases in 2018—a three-fold increase compared to 2011. To learn more about this work, NACCHO reached out to LHDs in Kentucky and Iowa that have designed innovative models to identify harm reduction clients living with HCV and help them overcome barriers to care.
- Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on hepatitis prevention and elimination in the United States:
- The State of Viral Hepatitis During the COVID-19 Pandemic was developed by NACCHO in partnership with NASTAD, National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR), Hepatitis Education Project, Hep B United, HepVu, and Hepatitis B Foundation and synthesizes the results of three surveys distributed to state health departments, local health departments, and community-based organizations and clinical providers that highlight the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on hepatitis programs and services.
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, local health departments are adapting syringe services programs by increasing the number of syringes and other supplies distributed per visit, establishing hotlines so clients can access counseling over the phone, pre-packing and delivering syringes and other equipment, and/or establishing hygiene or handwashing stations. Learn more about the impact of the COVID-19 on syringe services programs.
- Visit CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness page and follow @cdchep on Twitter for information about hepatitis resources, tools, publications, campaign updates, and events. Use the hashtags #HepAware, #hepatitis, #HepTestingDay, and #HepatitisElimination to join the conversation and share information on viral hepatitis.
- To stay connected, sign up for monthly emails from the Division of Viral Hepatitis about new publications, recommendations, new materials or significant events and sign up to receive NACCHO’s HIV, STI, & Viral Hepatitis Digest, a biweekly e-newsletter featuring the latest news, tools, and resources for local public health professionals working on HIV, STI, or viral hepatitis Programs.
If you have any questions about Hepatitis Awareness Month, visit the Division of Viral Hepatitis’s website for information and resources (e.g., fact sheets, posters, provider resources) on all types of hepatitis or email firstname.lastname@example.org.