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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

California: Lofty Goal -- Stamp Out Silent Killer Hepatitis B

See full article at TheBody.com

Public health officials and Asian community leaders are working together to eradicate hepatitis B virus from San Francisco, the city with the highest concentration of HBV in the country, as well as the highest rates of liver cancer. A campaign has been launched to make screening a standard part of health care, especially among Asians.

HBV is widespread in many Asian countries, particularly China. Public health officials are relying on the rate of liver cancer to determine the rate of HBV infection, since most people are not tested for hepatitis B. San Francisco has about 14 liver cancer cases per 100,000 residents every year, compared with 9.5 cases per 100,000 people nationwide, according to CDC.

The irony is that hepatitis B is treatable, and liver cancer can be prevented, if patients and doctors know to look for it, according to Dr. Samuel So, director of the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University.

So helped create the initiative "San Francisco Hep B Free" to raise awareness and create partnerships with health care providers to increase screening, especially among Asian Americans. Their first step is to create marketing campaigns that encourage Asians and Pacific Islanders to get screened.

According to State Assembly member Fiona Ma, part of the problem is the stigma associated with the virus in China. "If you don't have folks willing to be the poster child or talk about the disease or what's happened in their family, we're never going to raise awareness." She added, "But that sentiment is changing. Unless we talk about it, we can't cure it or eradicate it."

For more information, visit www.sfhepbfree.org.

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