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Hepatitis Illnesses Hit Record Lows

Reported Illness from Hepatitis A, B, C Drops Dramatically, Says CDC
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 15, 2007 -- Reported illness from hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C dropped dramatically in the U.S. from 1995 to 2005, hitting record lows, says the CDC.

Reported acute cases of hepatitis A and hepatitis B haven't been this low since the government started keeping hepatitis records in 1966.

Reported acute cases of hepatitis C are also at a record low, but those records don't date back as far, according to the CDC.

Hepatitis is a liver disease caused by at least five different viruses, in addition to its non-viral causes. Hepatitis A, B, and C are America's three most common types of viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis infection doesn't always trigger immediate symptoms -- which can include jaundice and abdominal pain -- and the CDC's new data doesn't include people with hepatitis who have no symptoms.

" ... There are still a larger number of infections that are out there than are caught by our surveillance," says CDC epidemiologist Annemarie Wasley, ScD.

However, "The fact that we're seeing declining numbers of new symptomatic cases indicates that the number of new infections is also declining," Wasley, who works in the CDC's division of viral hepatitis, tells WebMD.

The CDC estimates that about 113,000 people in the U.S. became infected with one of these three hepatitis viruses in 2005.

The statistics appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Surveillance Summaries.

Types of Hepatitis

Hepatitis confuses many people because there are so many different types.

Also, people with hepatitis often have no symptoms, although viral hepatitis infections can be detected with a blood test.

Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver caused by infection with the hepatitis A virus. Poor sanitary conditions and personal hygiene practices contribute to spread of the disease.

Hepatitis A is not a chronic disease, and once you have gotten over a hepatitis A infection, you can't get it again.

Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B and C can be chronic and can lead to permanent liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

Inflammation of the liver can also be due to noninfectious causes of hepatitis such as alcohol and certain medications.

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