There is currently no vaccine for HCV although in about 50% of the cases, it can be cured. Chronic viral hepatitis is not a disease that is talked about much in the United States.
Occasionally, you will hear stories about a worker at a restaurant with hepatitis A, or improper needle use leading to an outbreak of acute HBV and HCV infection.
Rarely is chronic infection, the more insidious side of viral hepatitis infection, discussed in public.
Most people are unaware that chronic infection is possible, let alone that it can lead to liver cancer decades after the acute infection.
This disease exacts a devastating toll on those infected, their families, and our economy, often most prevalent in vulnerable populations like immigrants who hail from countries where HBV and HCV are endemic, African American, and Latino communities.
During a personal moving testimony at a Congressional briefing on Hepatitis B in 2008, a young woman tearfully relayed how she had lost much of her family to liver cancer as a result of hepatitis B infection.
Assemblymember Fiona Ma in San Francisco found out that she was infected as a newborn and now must closely monitor her health for life. These stories are tragically familiar to tens of thousands in the United States and hundreds of millions across the globe who face the grim reality of chronic viral hepatitis infection.
The cost of chronic viral hepatitis is huge; HBV costs $658 million in medical costs and lost wages annually, HCV $85 billion in direct and indirect costs for the years 2010 through 2019.
The weight of personal loss and the reality of the strain on our healthcare system from chronic viral hepatitis make it imperative that we act.
The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2009 makes a wise investment by focusing federal efforts on a strategy that will save lives and make our health system more efficient, working within the new prevention paradigm being addressed across our nation.
It brings together the common concerns of the diverse viral hepatitis community to fight chronic viral hepatitis by establishing, promoting, and supporting a comprehensive prevention, research, and medical management referral program for chronic HBV and chronic HCV.
The bill will strengthen the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance efforts.
Finally, I am particularly excited by the strong bi-partisan partnership and advocacy support that I had in crafting and introducing this bill.
The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and other stakeholders contributed months of work toward this introduction. My partners in Congress and out in the Advocacy community look forward eagerly to bring this bill to fruition.
October 30, 2009, 03:01 pm