By Sarah Plummer
The Beckley-Raleigh County Health Department is participating in a West Virginia hepatitis B vaccination pilot program to help curb increases in the infectious virus.
A 2008 report by the West Virginia Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported rates of acute hepatitis B increased by more than 150 percent.
Candy Hurd, director of nursing at the Beckley-Raleigh Heath Department, said that as of 2010, the state has the highest incidence rate of acute hepatitis B in the nation with a rate of 4.7 per 100,000 people.
She explained that this new state-funded pilot program has targeted several counties with high rates of hepatitis B. Health care professionals will be providing vaccines through partnerships with work release centers and substance abuse treatment facilities.
She said these partners will help them reach high risk adults, those adults who take IV drugs, share needles and/or participate in high risk sexual activity.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that ranges from being short-lived and mild to being a serious, lifelong illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected.
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