by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
Recently introduced federal legislation sets out to fight one of the nation’s “silent killers:” hepatitis. The Viral Hepatitis Testing Act of 2015 would help the estimated 75 percent of hepatitis patients who don’t know they have the disease – by expanding testing and providing educational materials. The bill represents the first nationally coordinated effort to combat viral hepatitis.
HR 1101 begins by acknowledging 19 findings on viral hepatitis in the United States. Among these are the facts that:
- Approximately 5.3 million Americans are infected with hepatitis B, C or both.
- In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that all Americans born between 1945 and 1965 receive a one-time test for hepatitis C
- Hepatitis disproportionately affects certain populations. Baby boomers account for 75 percent of hepatitis C cases; African Americans, Latinos and American Indians have disproportionately high rates of hepatitis viruses too
- Treatment for hepatitis C can eradicate the disease in 95 percent or more of those treated.
The bill also acknowledges why many patients don’t realize they have the disease. As HR 1101’s congressional sponsors noted in their letter to colleagues, “the virus often remains asymptomatic until it has already wreaked havoc on the liver, causing cirrhosis end-stage liver disease or liver cancer.”
In addition to expanding testing and providing for educational materials, the Viral Hepatitis Testing Act would strengthen coordination among health care providers to guide patients who do test positive on how to manage their disease and avoid transmitting it to others.
The Viral Hepatitis Testing Act of 2015 will be one of the issues discussed at an upcoming “Advocates Unite!” conference May 10-13 in Washington DC.