Hepatitis B Plan Seeks to Aid High-Risk Groups
San Francisco Chronicle 09.19.08:: Elizabeth Fernandez
New CDC guidelines released Thursday recommend hepatitis B virus (HBV) testing for all US residents who were born in Asia or Africa, as well as for injection drug users and men who have sex with men.
"There are better treatments available than ever before," said Dr. John W. Ward, director of CDC's division of viral hepatitis. Ward spoke at a news conference in San Francisco at the Chinatown Public Health Center. In San Francisco alone, an estimated 25,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders are believed to be infected with HBV. Nationally, CDC estimates that one in 12 Asians and Pacific Islanders has HBV.
A simple vaccine can prevent HBV, which is a major cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. These conditions kill 2,000 to 4,000 US residents each year, typically due to chronic HBV infection. Health experts believe as many as 1.4 million Americans carry the virus and do not know it.
The Bay Area is often an arrival point for immigrants from Asia, and San Francisco has the nation's highest rates of liver cancer.
The city was chosen as the site for CDC's announcement in part due to the success of its "San Francisco Hep B Free" campaign. Since its launch in April 2007, the program has prompted 4,000 people to access HBV vaccination. The outreach - a collaborative effort of the city, community organizations, and private health care - is considered a national model.
CDC's full report, "Recommendations for Identification and Public Health Management of Persons with Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection," was published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2008;57(RR08);1-20).