Hepatitis B, Related Illnesses Affect Asian-Americans at Disproportionate Rates
Asian-Americans are disproportionately diagnosed with hepatitis B and more likely than whites to die of hepatitis B-related illnesses, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports.
According to CDC, Asian-Americans die from hepatitis B-related illnesses, such as liver cancer and cirrhosis, at a rate seven times greater than whites. According to the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University, chronic hepatitis B affects 0.3% of the U.S. population, though more than 50%, or about 700,000 people, of those with hepatitis B are Asian.
Experts maintain that most Asians contract the virus through their mothers at birth or in childhood and that most Asians contract the virus overseas. Hepatitis B also can be spread through unprotected sex and shared needles, the Tribune reports. In Los Angeles County, Calif., 81% of women who gave birth in 2005 and had hepatitis B were Asian, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The Herald Cancer Association, through funding from various sources, sponsors hepatitis B outreach efforts, and the city of San Francisco last month launched an initiative that seeks to vaccinate all Asian residents against the virus. The California Assembly Health Committee in April approved a bill (AB 158) that would allocate $4 million toward hepatitis B prevention and treatment efforts in the Asian community.
Sammy So, director of ALC, said, "Almost every Asian knows of someone who died from liver cancer," adding, "Hepatitis B and liver cancer is the greatest health care disparity" (Jiayi Ho, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 5/15).