Maine had the highest rate of new hepatitis C cases and the second-highest rate of hepatitis B cases in 2020, according to data released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases of hepatitis C in Maine increased dramatically from 3.2 per 100,000 people in 2019 to 11.9 per 100,000 people in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available. The national rate was 1.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2020.

The rate of hepatitis B cases in Maine actually decreased during that time – from 4.3 per 100,000 to 3 per 100,000 – but remained higher than every other state except West Virginia.  The rate of hepatitis B throughout the country was 0.7 cases per 100,00 people in 2020.

In all, more than 7,000 Maine residents are living with chronic hepatitis, according to the federal data.

Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention released the data this week to remind Maine residents to get tested and vaccinated, if appropriate.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, an organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. Serious cases can lead to hospitalization and even death.


The most common hepatitis infections are hepatitis A, an acute infection, and hepatitis B and C, which can be acute or chronic. Many people can contract hepatitis B or C without knowing it and their cases can be asymptomatic, which makes testing crucial.

Hepatitis A is highly contagious and can spread through close contact or by consuming contaminated food or water. Symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea, jaundice and dark urine.

Hepatitis B is considered the most serious type of liver infection. Left untreated, hepatitis B will cause serious liver problems – including cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure – in nearly one in four people. Hepatitis B is most commonly spread through sexual contact and injection drug use, or from an infected pregnant person to their fetus. The opioid crisis has led to a steep increase in cases of hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C is the most common infection, but most people show no symptoms. That strain is primarily spread through blood and also can be passed from an infected pregnant person to the fetus.

There are available and effective vaccines for both hepatitis A and B, and the Maine CDC recommends them. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but it is treatable. Health officials also say it’s a good idea for people to get tested for hepatitis B and C, even if they don’t have symptoms.

Maine CDC officials said that the state’s rate of hepatitis C may be higher than other states because Maine has a “robust testing and reporting protocol.”

State health officials often will issue warnings about possible exposure to hepatitis in public spaces in an effort to encourage others who might have been exposed to get tested.

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