Stay Healthy - Get Tested for Hepatitis B
Help San Francisco Meet Goal of Being the First U.S. City to Test and Vaccinate all Asians and Pacific Islanders for Hepatitis B
If you are an Asian or Pacific Islander, chances are at least 1 in 10 that you have an undiagnosed infection with hepatitis B. "The hepatitis B virus is common in the Bay Area due to the high percentage of Asians who live here and the fact that vaccination against the disease didn’t become routine in the United States until 1993,” says Stewart Cooper, M.D., medical director of California Pacific Medical Center’s Liver Disease Management & Transplant Program. “In many cases, mothers with hepatitis B may have passed it to their child without knowing,” he adds.
San Francisco Launches Hep B Campaign
To help stop the spread of hepatitis B, the Department of Public Health recently launched the San Francisco Hep B Free Campaign. This major collaborative brings together city government, private healthcare and non-profit community organizations—including California Pacific Medical Center and AsianWeek Foundation—in a two-year campaign to screen all Asian and Pacific Islander residents for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The campaign puts San Francisco at the forefront of America in fighting chronic hepatitis and is the largest healthcare campaign to target Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.
“I am involved in this campaign because it focuses on awareness and prevention, which are two key factors in making San Francisco Hep B free,” says Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, a Hep B carrier by birth. “Hep B can be prevented and treated, and that is what makes this campaign so important—it will literally save lives.”
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver and can result in liver damage, cancer and in some cases, death. Because hepatitis B can remain silent inside the body, many people do not know they have the virus until they get tested. Among Asians and Pacific Islanders, hepatitis B is responsible for 80% of all liver cancers. Accordingly, San Francisco has the highest liver cancer rate in the nation. Liver cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Asian men.
Transmission of hepatitis B virus typically occurs from:
- Mother-to-child infection (from a pregnant woman to her baby)
- Sexual contact
- Blood-borne infection (from shared needles, tattoos or body piercing performed with “dirty” needles, etc.)
Free HBV Screening in San Francisco
As part of the SF Hep B Free collaborative, California Pacific Medical Center is offering free, confidential hepatitis B screening in 2008 and 2009 at sites in San Francisco including churches, community organizations and health fairs. See a list of testing dates offered by California Pacific.
Screening for hepatitis B infection is simple: a small blood sample is drawn and analyzed for hepatitis B surface antigen, surface antibody and core antibody—a process that takes about one week.
For those diagnosed with hepatitis B, follow-up with a hepatologist or physician with specific HBV interest is encouraged. While not everyone who tests positive for hepatitis B needs treatment, a hepatologist can determine if liver damage has occurred and if treatment is necessary. Hepatitis B medications can suppress the infection in most patients and slow or reverse liver disease.
Hepatitis B is not curable but is controllable in most patients undergoing treatment. Although one may feel healthy with hepatitis B, regular examinations are important and should include liver tests, viral replication status and screening for liver cancer.
California Pacific Medical Center is firmly committed to preventing transmission of hepatitis B by providing free screening and vaccination, and offering access to hepatitis B specialists to keep current and future generations of San Franciscans healthy.