Viral hepatitis is caused by infection of one of five viruses – hepatitis A, B, C, D or E. All hepatitis viruses can cause inflammation of the liver, and chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Viral hepatitis is a major global health threat with around 240 million people living with chronic hepatitis B and up to 150 million people living with chronic hepatitis C.
Worldwide, viral hepatitis is among the top 10 infectious disease killers with more than one million people dying each year from chronic viral hepatitis. These deaths are primarily from cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Many of those who are chronically infected are unaware of their infection. People can live with chronic viral hepatitis for decades before having symptoms or feeling sick. The good news is hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be prevented with safe, effective vaccine. Over the last several decades in the U.S., there has been more than a 90% decrease in hepatitis A cases, and many experts believe this decline is due to vaccination of children and people at risk for hepatitis A. In many parts of the world, widespread infant vaccination programs have led to a decrease in new cases of hepatitis B. There is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but research is ongoing. (from. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/worldhepday.htm)
In California, the Department of Health Care Services has recently come out with guidelines for treating Hepatitis C, based on the latest medical literature. These guidelines should make it easier for patients to access their health insurance coverage, including Medi-Cal, to get appropriate treatment. http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/Documents/Hepatitis%20C%20Policy.pdf.