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Screening Events Promote Hepatitis Testing and Prevention during National Hepatitis Awareness Month
<p>Press Release</p>
May 14, 2013

Hepatitis B and C are the greatest causes of liver cancer in America, but can be prevented or treated; Screening events and PSAs being coordinated in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles

SAN FRANCISCO & LOS ANGELES & NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--During National Hepatitis Awareness Month this May, Hep B Free San Francisco, Asian Week Foundation, and National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable are helping to coordinate hepatitis screenings and a new public service announcement to highlight prevention of hepatitis B and C (HBV/HCV) disease, which together cause almost all liver cancers worldwide.i Screening events featured in the PSA are being held in three of the largest metro areas affected by viral hepatitis: New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA, and San Francisco, CA.

Viral hepatitis is a leading infectious cause of death in the U.S. To combat the epidemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created an Action Plan in 2011 for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. The launch of Hepatitis Awareness Month, observed in May, National Hepatitis Testing Day, observed May 19, and National Hispanic Hepatitis Awareness Day, observed on May 15, have resulted in a growing number of events being organized by local communities in cities around the country to highlight hepatitis prevention.

This year, events in New York City will start on Tuesday, May 14 with a press conference on the steps of City Hall organized by National Hispanic Hepatitis Awareness Day, the New York Hep C Task Force and the New York Hep B Coalition. Los Angeles will hold a media event and community rally on Friday May 17 organized by Hep B Free Los Angeles and the Hep C Task Force of Los Angeles. San Francisco will hold a large pubic screening event and press conference on Saturday May 18 organized by San Francisco Hep B Free and the San Francisco Hep C Task Force. Other events will also be taking place throughout the country in observance of the awareness and testing days.

The televised awareness commercials will air from May 8 to May 19 in the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco media markets. The commercials feature a call for hepatitis testing as a way to prevent liver cancer and include a unique URL for each city that links to local hepatitis resources and screening events.

“We are excited to see this first-ever national collaboration with local communities, healthcare groups and the media to promote testing for viral hepatitis and the prevention of liver disease in our communities,” said Ted Fang, Executive Director of AsianWeek Foundation. AsianWeek Foundation and SF Hep B Free spearheaded the three-city coordination and worked with the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable to develop the television awareness commercials.

“This is a wonderful multi-faceted approach for educating the public about the need for viral hepatitis testing,” said Martha Saly, Executive Director of National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. “We are proud to be part of this coalition and building private/public partnerships to end viral hepatitis liver disease in America.”

“Far too many Americans – approximately four million -- are infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, and the majority of those individuals don’t know it,” said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The HHS National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan promotes prevention, screening, care and treatment to tackle this silent epidemic.”

The majority of liver cancers in the world are attributable to chronic infections of HBV and/or HCV. Primary prevention of HBV infection includes vaccination. HCV infection is potentially preventable through public health measures, including screenings.ii Many will die from liver cancer if they do not receive the proper care. Several minorities are disproportionately impacted by hepatitis. For example, Hepatitis B is the greatest health disparity for both African immigrants and Asian Americans affecting approximately 10% of both groups.

In 2012, approximately 4,300 Hispanics will be diagnosed with liver cancer, and about 2,700 will die from the disease. Liver cancer incidence rates in the US are about twice as high in Hispanics as in non-Hispanic whites.ii

About Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common chronic blood-borne viral infection and the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States. An estimated 3.2 million Americans are infected with HCV, and are at risk for developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. Most persons who have HCV are not aware they are infected, and most with acute infection (60%-70%) show no symptoms. Approximately three of four infected persons were baby-boomers, born between 1945-1965. HCV is responsible for more than 15,000 deaths in the United States every year. In Los Angeles County, an estimated 180,000 persons are infected with HCV, and rates of HCV infection in the general population are estimated at 1.8%, 3.2% among persons born 1945-1965, and as high as 67.8% among injection drug users.

There is currently no vaccine to protect against Hepatitis C infection.

HCV is transmitted by exposure to infected blood. Sexual transmission is possible, but not common. It is most common among people who have injected drugs at some point during their lives. People who have received blood transfusions or organ transplants before widespread screening of the blood supply began in 1992 are also at risk. Others at risk include children born to HCV-positive women, sexual partners of persons with HCV and health care or emergency workers. To prevent HCV infection, only sterile needles and equipment should be used, and personal items, such as toothbrushes, razors or nail clippers should not be shared.

Among HIV-affected persons, one in four are infected with HCV; liver disease is a leading cause of death for persons with HCV. Co-infection rates with HCV are believed to be as high as 40%. An estimated 60-90% of people who contracted HIV from injection drug use also are infected with HCV.

About Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

The Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), which attacks the liver, is 100 times more infectious than HIV/AIDS. HBV can cause lifelong (chronic) infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer/failure, and death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine screening and vaccination for HBV in all individuals from high prevalence regions, including Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. Screening can prevent HBV transmission, suffering, and death.

Of the 800,000 to 1.4 million with chronic hepatitis B in United States, and 25% will die of HBV-related liver diseases if not treated. Liver cancer is one of the most common cancers in AAPIs in California. Among men, it is the most common cancer in Cambodians and Laotians, 2nd most common in Vietnamese, 4th in Chinese, Filipino and Native Hawaiians, and 5th in Koreans and Pacific Islanders. Among women, liver cancer is the 5th most common cancer in Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese, and is also common in other AAPI women. In the U.S., AAPIs have the highest rate of liver cancer of any racial/ethnic group. Also, 80% of the HBV perinatal caseload in California, and within Los Angeles County, are AAPI women and household contacts. HBV is one of the greatest health disparities between AAPIs and the general US population (which has less than 1% prevalence of chronic HBV infection).

i American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003114-pdf.pdf
ii American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-034778.pdf

Contacts

Hep B Free San Francisco
Genevieve Jopanda, 415-913-0217
genevieve@sfhepbfree.org



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