Hepatitis B and the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Community
350-400 million people in the world are chronically infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis B takes a life every 30 seconds. Most of these lives are Asian.
Geographic distribution of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBC) infection – worldwide, 2006* (Source: CDC)
* For multiple countries, estimates of prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), a marker of chronic HBV infection, are based on limited data and might not reflect current prevalence in countries that have implemented childhood hepatitis B vaccination. In addition, HBsAg prevalence might vary within countries by subpopulation and locality.
1 in 12 Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) immigrant adults are chronically infected with hepatitis B in the US.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders tend to be infected at a much higher rate, with 1 in 12 immigrant adults chronically infected with hepatitis B, compared to 1 in 1000 in the general population. Without treatment or monitoring, 1 in 4 of these individuals will die from liver cancer or liver failure. Many die at the prime of their lives and as early as 30 years of age, leaving behind family members and children.
Chronic hepatitis B is responsible for 80% of all primary liver cancer worldwide. Liver cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Asian American men. API's have the highest rate of liver cancer of any race/ethnic group. The incidence of hepatitis B and liver cancer constitutes the greatest health disparity that exists between Asian & Pacific Islanders (APIs) and the general U.S. population.
In California alone liver cancer is the #1 leading cause of cancer deaths among Laotian American men, the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among Cambodian and Vietnamese men, the 4th leading cause of cancer deaths among Chinese and Korean men, and the 5th leading cause of deaths among Filipino men.
To learn more about HBV and liver cancer in API Americans, vist the CDCs info page here.
Should I be Tested?
The CDC recommends testing for Hepatitis B for certain groups of people, including:
• People born in Asia, Africa, and other regions with moderate or high rates of Hepatitis B (see map) - this means all the immigrants which make up a lot of people
• Unvaccinated people whose parents are from regions with high rates of Hepatitis B - this is like the rest of us
• Anyone having sex with a person infected with Hepatitis B
• People who live with someone with Hepatitis B