AABB Marks Hepatitis Awareness Month, Celebrates Contributions of AABB Members to Promoting Blood Safety

May 04, 2021

AABB joins Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health care organizations across the country in recognizing May as Hepatitis Awareness Month. The designation seeks to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination for hepatitis A and B viruses, encourage testing for hepatitis B and C viruses, promote the availability of effective care and curative treatment, and emphasize the health consequences resulting from undiagnosed and untreated viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis is a potentially transfusion-transmissible infection, but transfusion-transmitted hepatitis is exceedingly rare today as a result of the blood community’s work in advancing improved testing, stringent donor screening, pathogen-reduction technology and infection monitoring systems. 

Members of the AABB community have played a leading role in facilitating many of these improvements. In 1972, AABB President William Battaile, MD, and Treasurer Bernice M. Hemphill announced a national public education campaign to recruit voluntary donors. This effort helped reduce the risk of hepatitis infection, which was associated at the time with the use of blood from paid donors. 

In 2020, Harvey J. Alter, MD, a longtime AABB member, recipient of multiple AABB Memorial Awards and a past member of AABB’s Transfusion Transmitted Diseases Committee, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus, received jointly with Charles M. Rice, PhD, and Michael Houghton, PhD. Prior to this discovery, the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases were unexplained. The discovery made possible blood tests and new medicines that saved millions of lives.

And today, AABB members continue to support efforts to maintain the safety of the blood supply. For example, volunteer member experts of the Donor History Task Force developed the Donor History Questionnaire, which collects blood donor history information that is consistent with Food and Drug Administration requirements and recommendations. 

AABB member institutions also participate in the Transfusion-Transmissible Infections Monitoring System, which collects HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B incidence and prevalence; risk factors; advanced laboratory measures; and associated demographic variables among blood donors in the United States. The TTIMS represents approximately 60% of the U.S. blood supply. 

Thanks in part to these contributions, the blood supply is safer today than it has ever been. AABB is proud to celebrate these accomplishments and the individuals and institutions that continue to drive research and programs that maintain the safety of the blood supply and protect patient health.