August 5, 2010

Kerry Introduces Bill to Fight Viral Hepatitis

For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 5, 2010

CONTACT: DC Press Office, (202) 224-4159

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), today introduced the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2010, which calls for a national strategy to prevent and control Hepatitis B and C. Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) is the legislation’s lead sponsor in the House of Representatives. The bill has been endorsed by over 100 hepatitis focused organizations from across the nation.

“Viral hepatitis is a silent killer,” Senator Kerry said. “Most people don’t even know they have hepatitis until it causes liver damage or even cancer years after the initial infection. We can easily avoid these needless tragedies with prevention, surveillance programs, and by educating Americans about this deadly disease. The bill I’m introducing today will help create a national strategy to combat and prevent hepatitis, hopefully ending this silent affliction’s often deadly consequences.”

Viral Hepatitis contributes to the death of 15,000 Americans a year and threatens the health of 5.3 million more. It is more common than HIV/AIDS and is the leading cause of liver cancer. Most people don’t know they have hepatitis until it causes cancer or liver disease years after infection. This is largely because there is currently no federal funding of core public health services for viral hepatitis. Nor is there any federally funded chronic Hepatitis B and C surveillance system.

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act aims to correct this by authorizing nearly $600 million over the next five years to fund a national strategy to prevent and control viral hepatitis. It directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a national plan for the prevention, control and medical management of viral hepatitis in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The legislation requires the development of a national plan that must include the following components:

• education and awareness programs;
• an expansion of current vaccination programs;
• counseling regarding the ongoing risk factors associated with viral hepatitis;
• support for medical evaluation and ongoing medical management;
• increased support for adult viral hepatitis coordinators; and
• the establishment of an epidemiological surveillance program to identify trends in incidence and prevalence in the disease.

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2010 also enhances SAMHSA’s role in hepatitis activities by providing the agency with the authority to develop educational materials and intervention strategies to reduce the risks of hepatitis among substance abusers and individuals with mental illness.


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