U.S. Acute Viral Hepatitis A, B Cases Hit New Low

Hepatitis A, B, and C--the three most common forms of acute viral hepatitis in the United States--dropped sharply from 1995 to 2005, and the credit goes to the availability of vaccines and strong immunization programs nationwide, the CDC said last month. Hepatitis A and B fell to the lowest levels ever recorded since the government began collecting surveillance data more than 40 years ago.

Since 1995, new cases of acute hepatitis A declined by 88 percent to 1.5 per 100,000 population, as reported in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. "The sharp declines in rates of hepatitis A and B are one of the big public health success stories of the last 10 years. The drops in new cases of hepatitis A and hepatitis B are evidence that our prevention strategies have been successful, particularly the widespread use of vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. In order for these declines to continue, our prevention efforts must be sustained," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

Hepatitis C cases also have fallen steadily since the late 1980s. "However, this trend should be viewed with caution since surveillance for acute hepatitis C is limited because many individuals do not immediately develop symptoms and do not know they are infected with the virus," CDC said, adding that more than 4.5 million Americans have chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C and are at serious risk for liver cirrhosis and cancer.

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