In the United States today, an estimated one-third of the population becomes infected with hepatitis A during their lifetime, 1.4 million are chronically infected with hepatitis B, and approximately 4 million have been infected with hepatitis C. The American Liver Foundation (ALF) is raising awareness about the risks associated with hepatitis to promote testing and encourage people with hepatitis to get treated now.

While some forms of hepatitis are considered dangerous, it is hepatitis C, the most common type of hepatitis in the United States, that is particularly alarming. Patients who contract hepatitis C and are not treated can develop liver diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer; hepatitis C is also the leading cause of liver transplants.

Studies show that African Americans not only have the highest rates of chronic hepatitis C, but also have a higher mortality rate from resulting liver disease than Caucasians. However, there are treatments currently available that have proven successful in treating more than half of patients infected with hepatitis C, helping to prevent these potentially deadly liver problems.

There is no vaccine available for hepatitis C and many people with the disease are unaware that they are infected and have not sought treatment.

Dr. Samuel Daniel, President and CEO of North General Hospital (New York), emphasizes the point, “It’s important for patients, especially those at higher risk such as African Americans, to speak to their doctors about being tested and treated as soon as possible for hepatitis in order to preserve liver health.”

Screening for the hepatitis C virus involves a simple blood test that detects the presence of antibodies to the disease. Public health experts estimate that less than 30 percent of Americans with hepatitis C are aware they carry the infection, and many people who have been diagnosed mistakenly believe they can wait to be treated.

According to Dr. Daniel, “African Americans with hepatitis C related liver disorders have higher mortality rates than Caucasians and need to treat the disease immediately because it can become a serious threat to their health in as little as five years.”

“We want to remind at-risk individuals to be tested and seek treatment right away, helping to prevent further damage to the liver,” said Frederick Thompson, President and CEO of the American Liver Foundation.

If you believe you may be at risk for hepatitis or would like more information, please call the American Liver Foundation at 800.GO.LIVER (465-4837) or visit