Updated Oct 31, 2017
October has been an incredibly busy month for both of us, and we know that it was for many of you as well. It has brought real challenges to California where health officials declared a public health emergency due to the hepatitis A outbreak which has resulted in 357 hospitalizations and 19 deaths as of October 19, 2017. California is joined by Colorado, Michigan, Arizona, and Utah, which are also dealing with outbreaks of hepatitis A.
Today, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. We do not yet fully understand the implications of this, but as we learn more we will share the information with you. All of us have been concerned about the direct impact of the opioid epidemic on the health of Americans as well as its effects on infectious diseases.
We are proud to have coordinated the Hidden Casualties: The Consequences of the Opioid Epidemic on the Spread of Infectious Disease event that more than 4,500 viewers streamed live. It is available to view now on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS)Facebook page. The symposium brought together HHS leaders to draw attention to infectious diseases that are spreading rapidly because of the opioid epidemic.
We were honored to be joined by Dr. Don Wright, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health; Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC; Dr. Christopher Jones, Acting Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, Science and Data Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation; and Dr. Vanila Singh, Chief Medical Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. We look forward to working with all of you to improve the integration of opioid and infectious disease prevention and response services to best serve patients and communities impacted by the opioid epidemic.
With Liver Cancer Awareness Month coming to a close, it is still a great time to learn about the effects of hepatitis on the liver. Hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) are liver diseases that range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic, lifelong illness. In people who have chronic infection, the virus attacks the liver and can cause liver disease and liver cancer. The CDC’s National Prevention Information Network has a variety of resources for you to share throughout the month and beyond. Also, our National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan is a national framework that facilitates partnerships to prevent viral hepatitis and liver cancer. Be sure to read about how federal agencies are engaged.
The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) marked its 15th anniversary at an inspirational event that recognized the contributions of the musician, philanthropist, and advocate Gregg Allman who died earlier this year. The NVHR event also provided an opportunity to talk with, and hear from, many of the well-established and the emerging leaders in the fight against viral hepatitis. It is truly an honor to work with such a dedicated group of people who are devoted to making the world a better place and achieving the vision of the Action Plan. Thank you for the work that you do and for supporting us as we strive to do our part.
Richard Wolitski, PhD and Corinna Dan, RN, MPH
Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- A policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls for the elimination of perinatal Hepatitis B. October 12, 2017. The AAP issued a policy statement calling for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B through providing the birth dose of the HBV vaccine within the first 24 hours of life to all medically stable newborns. Learn more about the policy.
- States Invited to Join New HHS Hepatitis C Medicaid Affinity Group. October 5, 2017. The new HHS Hepatitis C Medicaid Affinity Group is a joint initiative that aims to improve hepatitis C outcomes among Medicaid enrollees. Read more.
- Another outbreak related to the nation’s opioid crisis: hepatitis C – New cases of the liver disease have nearly tripled nationwide in just a few years, driven largely by the use of needles among drug users in their 20s and 30s, spawning a new generation of hepatitis C patients. October 17, 2017.
- California declares state of emergency over deadly hepatitis A outbreak – The declaration allows state health officials to buy additional doses of the hepatitis A vaccine to try to halt the outbreak, which is already the nation’s second largest in more than two decades. October 13, 2017.
- New York’s Unusual Law is Boosting Hepatitis C Testing – The measure, which the state legislature passed in 2014, was the first of its kind in the U.S. It required health-care providers to test anybody born between 1945 and 1965 for hepatitis C. October 10, 2017.