San Jose Mercury News (07.29.2013)
More than 200 people in central California received free hepatitis B screening last Sunday. The event was part of a World Hepatitis Day campaign to draw awareness to this deadly disease that affects one in 12 Asian-Americans, many of whom are unaware of their infection. Twenty-five percent of those infected could develop life-threatening complications, including liver cancer.
Former California Assembly Member Fiona Ma became a campaign spokesperson after learning at a previous awareness event that she suffered from chronic hepatitis B. She acquired hepatitis at birth from her mother but she thought she was only a “silent carrier.” Six years ago, a doctor informed her that people could only either have active or inactive hepatitis B, which prompted her to get a liver test and urge her family to do the same. Her mother’s test revealed early liver cancer, which doctors treated successfully.
Many testing participants indicated that they considered hepatitis B to be a mild health problem rather than a serious epidemic. They also believed having regular physicals and routine blood tests would automatically screen for the disease. CDC, which partly funded the testing, has launched a national screening education campaign. US hepatitis case numbers have decreased due to routine vaccinations of newborns, but it is still endemic.
ThinkTank Learning, a tutoring and test-prep company with a 95-percent Asian-American clientele, offered its centers as test sites as well as offered its students community service hours for each adult they recruited for testing. "This is a very good service for the community," said Palo Alto resident Bob Zhang. He was recruited by his daughter Lily, a senior at Palo Alto High School and a table tennis Olympian who also recruited seven visiting Chinese table tennis players for testing. The Chinese team members stated that they could not recall ever being tested for the disease in China.