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Hepatitis B Rates on the Decline in the United States
  Associated Press
Dec 31, 2003
Daniel Yee
On Wednesday, federal officials said hepatitis B has declined in the United States during the last decade, reflecting the effects of vaccinating children. CDC said cases have dropped 67 percent overall from 1990 to 2002. The greatest decrease - 89 percent - was among newborns to 19-year-olds.
However, cases are still rising among adults, CDC said. Since 1999, hepatitis B has risen by 5 percent among males ages 20-39 and by 20 percent and 31 percent, respectively, for men and women age 40 or older.
"There have been overall declines - that is good," said Dr. Beth Bell, chief of the epidemiology branch of CDC's viral hepatitis division. "But the recent rise among adults is concerning and highlights the need to improve our ability to vaccinate adults at high risk."
High-risk adults include those with multiple sex partners, men who have sex with men and injection drug users. Hepatitis B is bloodborne or sexually transmitted. CDC noted that high-risk persons could be vaccinated during health-care visits.
Hepatitis B can - along with hepatitis C - cause both acute and chronic infection, which can lead to chronic liver disease, liver scarring and liver cancer. The report, "Incidence of Acute Hepatitis B - United States, 1990-2002," appears in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2004;52(51):1252-1254).
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