81K Bay Area residents with hepatitis B, mostly AAPI: CDC

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON)—City officials were on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to declare May National Hepatitis Awareness Month. According to the CDC, hepatitis B has become the second leading infectious cause of death worldwide.

In the United States, California carries the highest burden of chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis B-related liver cancer nationwide.

Most people with hepatitis do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected, as symptoms can take decades to develop. According to city officials, an estimated 81,000 Bay Area residents currently have hepatitis B, “but most aren’t aware of their infections.”

According to the CDC, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and African Americans are at increased risk for hepatitis C in the United States. In California, an estimated 88% of adults living with chronic hepatitis B are Asians or Pacific Islanders (AAPI), the CDC reports.

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“Hepatitis B disproportionately affects Asian Americans. Only six percent of the U.S. population is AAPI, but that six percent accounts for 58 percent of Americans living with hepatitis B,” Supervisor Joel Engardio, who represents the Sunset district of San Francisco, said.

“With one of the largest AAPI populations in the nation, San Francisco must make hepatitis B awareness a public health priority.”

Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection that can cause both acute and chronic disease. Over 800,000 deaths occur every year, with 25% of chronic hepatitis B turning into liver cancer, the CDC reports.

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In 2006, San Francisco was the first city to create a community-based hepatitis B virus education and awareness model recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

More recently, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) awarded over $3 million in grants to North East Medical Services (NEMS), SF Hep B Free Bay Area, SF AIDS Health Foundation and Chinese Hospital grants to further their efforts in eliminating hepatitis locally in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Two decades ago, one in 10 Asian Americans had hepatitis B. Today, the number is one in 12. That’s progress. And it gives us hope. But we still have work to do. We need a lot more help to finish the job and put an end to hepatitis B in San Francisco and around the world,” Engardio said.

With the most recent donations, the organizations aim to adopt an approach to screen all adults, vaccinate all who are susceptible, and monitor all with chronic HBV every six months for routine labs and abdominal imaging.

Alongside SF Hep B Free Bay Area, NEMS plans to reach at least 20,000 persons who may be infected with hepatitis B but are not aware of their diagnosis.

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