May 10, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / KCBS) ―
Even though more than two million people in the United States have chronic Hepatitis B, a new study finds that not just patients, but a large number of doctors lack adequate knowledge about the disease.
Hepatitis B is known to cause up to 80 percent of liver cancers, but only occurs in the non-Asian population at rate of one person per every 1,000.
In the Asian population, the disease has been found to occur at a rate of 1 person for every 10.
The study, by Stanford University's Asian Liver Center, found that doctors in the Bay Area were vague when it came to naming facts on Hepatitis B and were often not able to communicate and educate patients who didn't speak English.
Doctor Stephanie Choa, program officer at the center, says many cases start in childhood or birth.
"An infant born to a mom with chronic Hepatitis B has a 90 percent chance of developing the disease for the rest of their lives as well," she said.
Choa said their study, which also included OB/GYNS, found that most physicians showed a fundamental lack of knowledge about the disease.
"Overall the physician knowledge is pretty poor," she said.
Hepatitis B is easily cured in infants with a short series of shots, so Choa says it's doctors, as well as patients, who are now the primary targets for a public awareness campaign.
Ted Fang, director for the Hep B Free Campaign in San Francisco, tells residents that help is ready and available if they need it.
"We have a vaccine that works and we have treatments available even if you're already infected," said Feng.
Free screenings are provided by the campaign, but Fang says the goal is to get people at risk to have routine screenings by doctors, which he says would go a long way in winning the battle against Hep B.