Maine DHHS Press / News Release

May 6, 2019

Maine CDC Recognizes May as National Hepatitis Awareness Month

AUGUSTA –The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) joins states across the nation to observe May as National Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19, 2019 as National Hepatitis Testing Day.

These figures reflect new, acute cases, which serve as an indicator of the rising burden of these illnesses.

Hepatitis can be spread by sharing syringes, needles, and injection equipment, such as water, tourniquets, cotton, drug cookers, contaminated surfaces, or the drugs themselves.

Hepatitis B and C can begin as short-term infections, but in many people, the virus remains in the body and causes chronic (lifelong) infection. Hepatitis viruses inflame the liver, which can cause permanent damage and lead to cancer. Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation among adults in the United States. More people die from hepatitis C than from all of the other 60 reportable infectious diseases combined.

Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common hepatitis viruses in the United States.

  • People can contract hepatitis A from eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the feces of a person with hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B can be contracted from exposure to an infected person's blood or body fluids, such as semen or saliva. Hepatitis C can be contracted from exposure to an infected person's blood. Hepatitis B and C can be spread by sharing personal care items that may have come into contact with an infected person's blood, such as razors and toothbrushes. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth, and through contaminated tattooing equipment.

Preventing life-threatening effects, such as liver disease, requires early detection, testing, and treatment. We advise you to check with your health care provider about getting tested and receiving hepatitis vaccinations if you are at risk, especially if you have or are currently injecting drugs.

Most people infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis C will not experience any symptoms. The only way to know if you have hepatitis B or C is to be tested. Those who do have symptoms may experience fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice (yellow skin). Most people living with hepatitis C do not know they are infected and can live with the infection for decades without feeling sick. However, if left untreated, the disease can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

People with risk factors for hepatitis B and C include:

  • People who have ever injected drugs
  • People who have been incarcerated
  • Those born between 1945 and 1965
  • Individuals with multiple sex partners
  • Individuals who have received an unlicensed tattoo
  • Individuals who received clotting factor concentrates before 1987
  • Anyone who received a blood transfusion or donated organ before 1993
  • People on long-term hemodialysis

All suspected and confirmed cases of hepatitis, as well as HIV, should be reported immediately to the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

For more information, please visit:

U.S. CDC websites on hepatitis:

Maine CDC Hepatitis website: