West Virginia county participates in hepatitis B vaccination pilot program

The Beckley-Raleigh County Health Department in West Virginia is participating in a new hepatitis B vaccination pilot program to reduce an increase in the number of cases in the state.

Candy Hurd, the director of nursing at the Beckley-Raleigh Health Department, said that the new state-funded pilot program is targeting several counties that have high hepatitis B rates. Healthcare workers will provide vaccines through partnerships with substance abuse treatment facilities and work release centers, the Register-Herald reports.

Hurd said that the partnerships will help the state to catch high-risk adults, such as people who share needles, take IV drugs and participate in high-risk sexual activity.

A report by the West Virginia Center for Disease Control released in 2008 reported that rates of acute hepatitis B grew by more than 150 percent. As of 2010, the state had the highest incidence rate of acute hepatitis B in the U.S. with a rate of 4.7 per 100,000 people.

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that may be short-lived and mild or become a serious, lifelong disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and is the most common reason for liver transplantation. Approximately 4.4 million Americans live with chronic hepatitis, though most do not know they have the infection, the Register-Herald reports.