Clinicians can expect to increase their commitment to the war on viral hepatitis now that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued an action plan for the prevention, care, and treatment of this disease. Although viral hepatitis is the leading infectious cause of death and a major cause of cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, it remains virtually unknown to the general public, at-risk populations, and policymakers.

“Even health-care providers lack knowledge and awareness about these infections,” contends HHS in Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis.

Goal 1.1 of the action plan is to build a U.S. health-care workforce that is prepared to prevent and diagnose viral hepatitis and provide care and treatment to infected persons. Between now and 2013, HHS will develop educational materials and clinical decision aids to be used by multiple disciplines of health professionals.

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Another goal is to overcome various barriers to testing to help clinicians identify infected persons early in the course of the disease, and to be sure patients receive accurate information about their hepatitis infection and how to avoid transmitting the virus to others.