September 23, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO - With the S.F. Hep B Free’s “B a Hero” ad encouraging people to get tested for the disease as a backdrop, members of the campaign joined Dr. John Ward, director of Viral Hepatology for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, at the Chinatown Public Health Center on Sept. 18 to announce the CDC’s new treatment recommendations.
The national recommendations, primarily for health care providers, are designed to increase routine testing in the United States for chronic hepatitis B, a major cause of liver disease and liver cancer.
The new testing recommendations reinforce prior recommendations to test all pregnant women, infants born to infected mothers, household contacts, sex partners of infected individuals and people with HIV. Along with these groups, testing is now recommended for persons with abnormal liver function tests and who require chemotherapy, men who have sex with men and drug users who use injections, a group that has a higher prevalence rate of chronic HBV infection than the general U.S. population. Individuals born in Asia, Africa and other geographic regions are also recommended to get tested; these groups have a 2 percent or higher prevalence of chronic HBV.
Ward said these new recommendations are critical to identifying people who are living with the disease.
“Testing is the first step to identify infected persons so that they can receive lifesaving care and treatment, which break the cycle of transmission, slow disease progression and prevent deaths from liver cancer,” said Ward.
The CDC advises that those already infected with the disease seek a specialist for ongoing monitoring and medical care. Healthcare providers are directed to offer culturally sensitive ongoing patient education and to begin lifelong monitoring for the progression of liver disease.
With jade ribbon pins on their lapels, supporters in attendance included Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Franchise Lead of Hepatolgy Allan Brooks, the Chinatown Public Health Center’s Albert Yu and San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Director Dr. Mitch Katz, who sported the campaign’s royal blue “B a Hero” wristband.
“The S.F. Hep B Free campaign has done a great job of spreading awareness of this disease,” said Ma, a chronic hepatitis B carrier. “If you have not been screened, go out and do so today.”
For more information about hepatitis B, visit cdc.gov/hepatitis. For more about the S.F. Hep B Free campaign sfhepbfree.org.