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1 out of 10 Asian Americans has hepatitis B |

Health And Family

1 out of 10 Asian Americans has hepatitis B

Alixandra Caole Vila - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – There is a virus that is 100 times more easily transmitted than the dreaded acquired immunodeficiency syndrome virus, and it is called Hepatitis B Virus (HBV).

HBV is a virus that causes Chronic Hepatitis B, a life threatening liver disease. According to United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 25 percent of people with hepatitis B develop serious liver problems such as liver failure,  liver cancer and cirrhosis (severe liver scarring), if left untreated.

The majority of the people infected with this disease feel healthy for their entire lives and do not have an evidence of ongoing liver damage. It is a ‘silent’ disease that slowly kills the liver without showing any symptoms even over decades. 

Approximately 240 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B infection. As many as 2 million of which are living in the US and about 1 million of them are foreign-born Asian Americans .

One in 10 Asian Americans has HBV- a rate over 20 times higher than that of the overall  U.S. population - two in three of which are not aware of it.

Without appropriate monitoring and treatment, Asian Americans are 2.7 times more likely to develop liver cancer than whites and 2.4 times more likely to die from the malignancy– the most significant cancer disparity between Asian Americans and whites. Chronic hepatitis B is a leading cause of cancer deaths in Asian American population.

HBV is found in blood and other body fluids, and can be transmitted by any activity that involves exposure to these fluids, including sexual contact, use of contaminated needles (e.g., injecting drugs or tattooing), or sharing some personal items like razors or toothbrushes.

However, most Asian Americans who have hepatitis B contracted the virus from their mothers during childbirth. According to CDC, Nearly 70% of Asian Americans living in the US were born, or have parents who were born in countries where hepatitis B is common. The widespread of the disease can also be accounted for the lack of access to medical services that can help save lives.

More importantly, hepatitis B is NOT transmitted through casual contact– it cannot be spread by sharing food, water or eating  utensils, or by hugging, kissing, coughing or sneezing.

The Importance of Screening
HBV screening is especially critical because patients with chronic hepatitis B usually do not experience any symptoms until advanced liver disease has already developed. Therefore, the screening is important, to identify people living with HBV and to help them access lifesaving medical care.  In order to address the high rates of hepatitis B among  Asian Americans, screening guidelines by the CDC recommend that all U.S. residents born in areas that are highly impacted by hepatitis B, such as Asia, be tested for hepatitis B. Screening also helps find other people, such as household contacts, who may be at risk for getting the disease. 

Prevention and Treatment
The good news is that chronic hepatitis B is preventable, with a safe and effective vaccine that has been available for over 30 years. People who are at risk for getting the disease should be vaccinated.  

Although there is no cure for chronic hepatitis B, there are several treatments available that can help protect the liver from further damage.

Studies have shown that over the long-term,  treatment may help reduce or reverse signs of serious liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis B infection. 

Efforts and Initiatives 
Hepatitis B can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. There are the groups across the country which take part on the initiatives to increase screening for hepatitis B and linkage to care for those who are infected.

CDC - screening guidelines, all US residents born in areas that are highly impacted by hepatitis B, such as Asia, be tested for hepatitis B.

US Preventive Services Task Force- hepatitis B testing for high-risk populations must be covered without cost-sharing by most private insurers and Medicare, and may expand coverage for screening under Medicaid.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- Viral Hepatitis Action Plan

CDC and Hep B United - the first-ever multilingual campaign to increase HBV testing among Asian Americans, “Know Hepatitis B.” 

The Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition - meaningful advances in the prevention, screening and treatment of viral hepatitis.

For more information about hepatitis B or to arrange interviews with expert physicians, community advocates or patients, please contact Gilead Public Affairs at (650) 574-3000 or

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