Published by Origins of American Culture - May 8, 2010
A provocative advertising campaign stirred up talk amongst the city of San Francisco. The image was of 10 beautiful Asian girls dressed in prom dresses with the bold statement “Which one deserves to die?” This advertisement put on by San Francisco Hep B Free states that 1 in 10 Asian Americans are infected with hepatitis B, the leading cause of liver cancer. Hepatitis B is spread through blood or bodily fluids. By getting a simple blood test, hepatitis B can be treated and even prevented. Fiona Ma, a Chinese-American state assemblywoman from San Francisco says, “No one wants to talk about it. But we know that people care about their families and their friends. And maybe if they know it can affect them, then maybe they’ll talk about it.” Ms. Ma contracted hepatitis B from her mother.
Hepatitis B is a modern day disease that has infected so many people throughout the United States. In the story ‘Plague of Ants’, Fray Bartolome de las Casas, the defender of the Indians, talks about another epidemic. In 1518, the Indians suffered from a great spread of smallpox. They were accustomed to washing themselves in the rivers every chance they got. Through this, the spread of the smallpox was going at a rapid rate and was locked inside their bodies. From lack of food, excessive labor, nakedness, and sleeping on the ground, the smallpox was the last thing the Indians’ bodies could handle and all died within a short period of time.
At this time in American history, there was no knowledge of medicine to help conquer the disease. Although the conditions of hepatitis B do not manifest until it’s really too late, the smallpox that the Indians endured burnt like fire in their bodies. Symptoms include raised pink raised pink rashes that turn into sores, severe headache, backache, excessive bleeding, and vomiting. The Spaniards were quick to notice that the Indians were dying off and in turn slowly stopped having them work out in the mines, but this was little to no help since this realization occurred so late.
With the education of doctors today and the knowledge of the diseases, smallpox and hepatitis B can be prevented. Although the vaccine for smallpox has not been given in the U.S. since 1972 when the disease was wiped out, the vaccine is given within 1-4 days of exposure which may prevent the illness altogether or make the symptoms less severe. Once the symptoms have started, the treatment is very limited. Hepatitis B is still infecting millions all across the world and a simple blood test will help bring knowledge to its carriers and can be prevented. Is one simple blood test stopping you from living?