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Saturday, May 6, 2006

SF Chronicle: "Ma urges hepatitis B awareness"

Bonnie Eslinger, The Examiner
May 6, 2006 9:00 AM (2 days ago)

Fiona Ma did not learn she had chronic hepatitis B until she tried to give blood at the age of 22. Now 40, the member of the Board of Supervisors is hoping her story will encourage other Asian Americans, who are at greater risk, to get tested for the deadly disease.

While only 3 percent of the nation's population has been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans make up more than half of these cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In San Francisco, nearly 30 percent of the population is of Asian descent, which means thousands of residents are likely to be chronic carriers.

"This is an issue near and dear to my heart, because I myself am a hep B carrier," said Ma, speaking at a press conference called Friday to promote awareness of the disease among San Francisco's Asian Pacific community.

Ma noted that her brother, who is only two years younger than she, is also a hepatitis B carrier, but her sister, who is 16 years younger, is not. That's likely because a hepatitis B vaccine became available in 1982, leading to routine vaccination of newborns.

Hepatitis B, caused by a virus that attacks the liver, occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person that is not infected. A mother can transmit it to her baby during birth. It can also be spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom and by sharing needles, among other means of transmission.

The children of immigrants from areas with high rates of infection, such as China, are at high risk for contracting the disease. Without vaccination, 90 percent of infants infected at birth develop a long lasting, chronic infection.

Often called the "silent disease" because about 30 percent of those infected have no signs or symptoms, in the United States, about 1.25 million people have chronic hepatitis B. Of those infected, 5,000 die from hepatitis B and hepatitis B-related liver complications each year.

Dr. Mitch Katz, San Francisco's director of public health, called hepatitis B a "deadly but preventable disease" and encouraged The City's Asian Pacific community to get tested and vaccinated, if needed.

Currently, all newborns in San Francisco are automatically vaccinated against hepatitis B. The City also spends approximately $200,000 a year to provide about 8,000 adult hepatitis vaccines to local public health centers and private nonprofit organizations at no charge.

For information on free or low-cost hepatitis testing and vaccination sites in San Francisco, call 415-554-2844. Free screenings will also be offered at the Asian American Heritage Celebration in San Francisco's Sunset District, on May 20.


Friday, May 5, 2006

Niwa Public Relations: "San Francisco's Asian Health Organizations Unite To Promote Awareness of Hepatitis B for Bay Area's Asian Pacific Islander American Community During National Hepatitis B Awareness Month"

For more information, contact:
Grace Niwa, Niwa Public Relations
(508) 238-6547

Photos available upon request


Free Hepatitis B Screenings will be provided by the Asian Liver Center
at Stanford University at the Asian Heritage Street Celebration on
Saturday, May 20th, 2006
2151 Irving Street, Suite 205 from 11 am to 4pm
Sunset District of San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA (May 5, 2006) –San Francisco’s Asian Health organizations came together to promote awareness of the prevalence of hepatitis B and the need for testing in San Francisco’s Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community during National Hepatitis B Awareness Month and Asian Pacific Heritage Month in May. Assemblymember Mark Leno; Fiona Ma, San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of Health, City and County of San Francisco; Dr. Ho Luong Tran, President and CEO, Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum; Dr. Samuel So, Director, Asian Liver Center at Stanford University and James Fang, Co-Chair, Asian Heritage Street Celebration supported the effort at a press conference at City Hall today. Fiona Ma presented a Proclamation to Dr. Samuel So on behalf of Mayor Gavin Newsom to declare the week of May 14-20 as “Hepatitis B Awareness Week in San Francisco.”

The Asian Liver Center at Stanford University announced they would provide free hepatitis B screenings for San Francisco’s APIA community during the Asian Heritage Street Celebration on Saturday, May 20th at 2151 Irving Street, Suite 205 from 11 am to 4pm located in the Sunset District of San Francisco. Partners in this united effort include San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, the Chinese Hospital, the API Wellness Center, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations and the APIA Health Forum.

Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection in the world caused by the hepatitis B virus that attacks the liver and can cause liver cancer. It is more common among APIA’s than other racial or ethnic groups in the U.S. According to the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University, an estimated 1 in 10 foreign born APIAs is chronically infected with hepatitis B, compared to 1 in 1000 Caucasian Americans. Many are not aware they have been infected, since there are usually no symptoms. Without appropriate monitoring or treatment, 1 in 4 of these chronically infected individuals will die from liver cancer or liver failure. Liver cancer, largely caused by hepatitis B, is the second leading cause of cancer death for APIA men living in the U.S.

“San Francisco is one of the major U.S. cities where chronic hepatitis B is a serious health problem due to our large Asian Pacific Islander American population,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. “The free hepatitis B screenings that the Asian Liver Center will be conducting at this year’s Asian Heritage Street Celebration are a great way to educate and raise awareness about this major health threat to our community.”

“There are an estimated 25,000 APIAs living in the city of San Francisco with chronic hepatitis B, and an additional 100,000 who are unprotected,” said Dr. Samuel So, Director, Asian Liver Center at Stanford University. “There’s a real need for increased hepatitis B testing and vaccination in the APIA community. More than half of the deaths from hepatitis B are from our community, yet the seriousness of this disease is underappreciated, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. We are grateful for the support of our community partners for promoting awareness and prevention of this silent epidemic.”

“We are very pleased to see San Francisco’s Asian Health organizations unite for this important cause,” said James Fang, Co-Chair, Asian Heritage Street Celebration. “We are encouraging all Asian Americans and their family members to get screened at this year’s festival.”

About The Asian Liver Center at Stanford University
The Asian Liver Center at Stanford University is the only non-profit organization in the United States that addresses the high incidence of hepatitis B and liver cancer in Asians andAsian Americans. Founded in 1996, the ALC has grown to become a national and international leader in fighting this global epidemic through outreach, education, and research. For more information, visit http://liver.stanford.edu.

About the Asian Heritage Street Celebration
The Asian Heritage Street Celebration is organized by the AsianWeek Foundation, in cooperation with the Mayor’s APA Heritage Committee and over 51 organizations in the Asian American community. The AsianWeek Foundation is a non-profit 501(c) 3 committed to developing the Voices of Asian America. All proceeds from the Celebration will be donated to local and national charities. For more information, visit www.asianfairsf.com.
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