Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
The prevention of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and associated health conditions (eg, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma) is a public health priority in the United States. Hepatitis C virus-related morbidity and mortality is increasing at a time when the advent of highly effective therapies greatly increases opportunities to prevent HCV transmission and disease. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine recommended that national action be taken to address this "underappreciated health concern for the nation." In response, in 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a viral hepatitis action plan that guides response to the viral hepatitis epidemic by providing explicit steps to be undertaken by specific HHS agencies to improve provider training and community education; expand access to testing, care, and treatment; strengthen public health surveillance; improve HCV preventive services for injection drug users; develop a hepatitis C vaccine; and prevent HCV transmission in healthcare settings. For all aspects of the action plan, infectious disease specialists and other clinicians assume a key role in efforts to reduce HCV-related morbidity and mortality. With successful collaboration of the public and private sectors, the hepatitis C epidemic can be forever silenced.