Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (05.31.12)
A study led by Dr. Kris Kowdley, director of Seattle’s Liver Center of Excellence at Virginia Mason Medical Center, found “a wide discrepancy in the current estimates of the chronic HBV [hepatitis B virus] burden in the US.”
This potentially higher prevalence of up to 2.2 million cases - compared to 2006 CDC estimate of 800,000 to 1.4 million - can be attributed to foreign-born persons who were infected in their country of origin before arriving in the United States, the study’s findings suggest. Previous reports may have underestimated the virus’ true burden because many affected individuals are institutionalized, homeless or foreign-born - at-risk populations who are under-represented on national health surveys.
Emigrants from Asia and Africa, where the virus is highly endemic, comprised nearly 70 percent of the 1.32 million foreign-born persons living with chronic HBV in the United States in 2009. Worldwide, up to 400 million individuals are affected by chronic HBV.
“Understanding the ethnic and cultural populations affected by chronic hepatitis B will provide more accurate estimates and help to develop programs for prevention, earlier diagnosis, and access to care for those at greatest risk,” said Kowdley.
[PNU editor’s note: “Prevalence of Chronic Hepatitis B Among Foreign-Born Persons Living in the United States by Country of Origin” was published in Hepatology (2012; doi:10.1002/hep.24804).