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DC Department of Health Raises Awareness on the Silent Epidemic of Hepatitis

Friday, May 18, 2012
The Department of Health encourages DC residents to ask their doctor for a hepatitis test.

Department of Health Encourages DC Residents to Ask Their Doctor for Hepatitis Test

In honor of National Hepatitis Testing Day, which kicks-off May 19, the DC Department of Health (DOH) encourages residents to ask their doctor for a hepatitis test. Getting tested for hepatitis can help many District residents improve their health and reduce the risk of liver cancer and disease.

“There has been recent progress in the fight against hepatitis with new medications and rapid testing devices. These advances can make treatment more effective and can help residents learn their hepatitis status faster,” said DOH Director, Dr. Mohammad Akhter. “Increased screening for hepatitis is vital for communities throughout the District of Columbia and adults should get tested the next time they visit the doctor.”

The Department of Health announced new steps to reduce hepatitis in DC:

  • DOH is conducting trainings of medical and community partners on hepatitis testing and treatment
  • DOH will release a new handbook for medical providers on hepatitis, including testing
  • DOH will launch a new ad campaign on Metro buses on hepatitis testing
  • DOH will distribute new posters on hepatitis testing for medical and community offices

DOH reports that there were 2,893 cases of hepatitis B and 12,012 cases of hepatitis C as of 2009.  Half of the hepatitis B cases were among persons ages 30 to 50 years old, while half of the hepatitis C cases were among persons ages 50 to 60 years old.  One out of every 50 District residents has hepatitis C.

Hepatitis is a virus that causes inflammation or swelling of the liver. The most common types of hepatitis in the District of Columbia and the country are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The highest number of cases is hepatitis C. Most persons are exposed to hepatitis A through contaminated food and drinks, which the body can handle in a few weeks without treatment. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are transmitted through bodily fluids. If left untreated hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause permanent damage to the liver. Nearly 70 percent of persons with untreated hepatitis C will develop liver disease. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, which many adults in the United States have not received.

For more information about hepatitis, visit