Legislation Needed to Modernize Public Health Response to Chronic Viral Hepatitis, Group Says

<p>The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today that legislation introduced by Sen. John Kerry, "The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act," would transform the country's approach to identifying and treating chronic viral hepatitis B and C. </p>

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today that legislation introduced by Sen. John Kerry, "The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act," would transform the country's approach to identifying and treating chronic viral hepatitis B and C. The group also says it is needed to "prevent a looming tidal wave of fatal cases costing our healthcare system tens of billions of dollars annually by 2024." The NVHR is the national coalition of public, private and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity and mortality from viral hepatitis.

"On behalf of over 5 million Americans infected with chronic viral hepatitis, we very much appreciate Senator Kerry's leadership and are gratified to have his support," says Lorren Sandt, NVHR chair and executive director of the Caring Ambassadors Program in Portland, Ore. "Sen. Kerry's legislation is urgently needed to modernize our nation's public health response to chronic viral hepatitis. Screening and early intervention are critical to achieving better outcomes for infected patients and must be a national priority. Otherwise, our system will incur each and every year -- thousands of avoidable deaths and billions of dollars in unnecessary costs."

"Viral hepatitis is a silent killer," Kerry stated while introducing the legislation today. "Most people don't even know they have hepatitis until it causes liver damage or even cancer years after the initial infection. We can easily avoid these needless tragedies with prevention, surveillance programs, and by educating Americans about this deadly disease. The bill I'm introducing today will help create a national strategy to combat and prevent hepatitis, hopefully ending this silent affliction's often deadly consequences."

The legislation authorizes funding of nearly $600 million over the next five years to direct the HHS Secretary to develop a national strategy to prevent and control viral hepatitis. The Kerry legislation is supported by at least 102 community-based organizations from coast to coast that provide viral hepatitis counseling, screening, and treatment programs. The Kerry bill is the companion to bipartisan legislation pending in the US House of Representatives, HR 3974, which currently has 61 co-sponsors.

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