Despite federal, state, and local public health efforts to prevent and control hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, these diseases remain serious health problems in the United States. About 1%-2% of the U.S. population has chronic HBV or HCV infections, and each year about 15,000 people die from liver cancer or liver disease related to these preventable infections. The Institute of Medicine formed an expert committee to determine ways to reduce new HBV and HCV infections and the morbidity and mortality related to chronic viral hepatitis and released its findings in a report. The major factor found to impede current efforts to prevent and control HBV and HCV is lack of knowledge and awareness about these diseases among healthcare and social-service providers, members of the public, and policy makers. Because the extent and seriousness of this public health problem is not appreciated, inadequate resources are being allocated to prevention, control, and surveillance programs. This situation has led to continued transmission of HBV and HCV and inadequate identification of and medical management for chronically infected people.
Conclusion: To address the situation, the Institute of Medicine report makes recommendations in four areas: improved surveillance for HBV and HCV; improved knowledge and awareness among healthcare and social-service providers and the public, especially at-risk people; improved HBV vaccine coverage; and improved viral hepatitis services and access to those services.