Shedding Light on a Hidden Epidemic - AASLD Endorses the Centers for Disease Control's Plan to Identify Those Infected with Hepatitis C Virus

Aug 16, 2012, 19:44 ET from American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) strongly supports the new screening recommendations for hepatitis C virus (HCV) from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recognizing that these guidelines -- testing all persons born during 1945-1965 -- are an integral next step to addressing the viral hepatitis epidemic. 

We applaud the CDC's explicit statement that these new guidelines are complementary to, and not a replacement for, existing recommendations, and we fully support CDC's unprecedented but much needed effort to expand HCV screening.

The 2010 report by AASLD and the Trust for America's Health HBV & HCV: America's Hidden Epidemics drew attention to the largely undiagnosed population in the US that has viral hepatitis and the urgent need to identify those individuals. We strongly believe that birth cohort screening as directed by these guidelines will lead to the identification of a far greater number of individuals infected with HCV.

The above-mentioned 2010 report highlighted that baby boomers have a much higher rate of HCV infection than the rest of the population -- one in thirty baby boomers has been infected with hepatitis C. Since the majority of these individuals are unaware of their infection, they remain untreated and at risk for cirrhosis and liver cancer, leading reasons for liver transplantation in this country. These new guidelines directly address the increased risk that this population confronts and the urgent need for intervention. We echo CDC in the need to both improve the identification of those with HCV, as well as linking those infected with chronic HCV to medical care.

Now that the guidelines are approved, the CDC and its stakeholder-partners, including AASLD, begin the difficult work of determining the impact of testing all persons born during 1945-1965. Some of the concerns may be difficult to anticipate and be limited by the lack of funding, but we must be prepared to begin to address them.

In the months and years ahead, AASLD will continue to work with our partners at the CDC to screen the close contacts of those infected with HCV. In addition, we will work with the Health Resources and Services Administration and our colleagues in primary care to improve existing linkages to care to assure that appropriate management follows diagnosis.

AASLD is prepared to participate in the national education campaign that will accompany these changes and will continue to serve as a partner with the CDC, The Department of Health and Human Services, and the entire medical community as implementation moves forward.

AASLD is the leading medical organization for advancing the science and practice of hepatology. Founded by physicians in 1950, AASLD's vision is to prevent and cure liver diseases.

Media Contact:
Gregory Bologna

SOURCE American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)