“HBV Free LV” Campaign Increasing Hepatitis B (HBV) awareness in the Asian and Pacific Islander Communities in Las Vegas.
One in Ten: highest rate of HBV infection
Asians and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of infection in any ethnic group in the United States. One out of ten Asians and Pacific Islanders are already infected with Hepatitis B virus.
A healthy liver is essential for living. The liver fights infections, stops bleeding and removes toxins. HBV is a serious disease of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. One in four patients who have HBV from endemic areas may die prematurely from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The above diagram illustrates the progression of liver damage. After HBV infection, deposits of fat occur making the liver swell. This leads to scar tissue and more injury. The end stage is due to scar tissue making the liver hard and fail. This can lead to liver cancer and death.
How is HBV spread?
The most common way that Asians and Pacific Islanders get HBV is that they were infected during childbirth. An infected mother can pass HBV to her baby when the child is born.
HBV is spread through contact with blood and bodily fluids. It can be spread by:
- Sharing razors, toothbrushes or other personal items
- Having unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners
- Sharing unclean needles to inject drugs
- Work in an environment where there may be exposure to blood or bodily fluids
Are you at risk for HBV?
- Are you Asian or Pacific Islander?
- Do you live with someone with HBV?
- Are you a healthcare or public safety worker?
- Do you use illicit injectable drugs?
- Do you have many sex partners?
- Does your mother have HBV?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, then you are at risk for becoming infected with HBV.
Knowledge is power
You can be infected with HBV and not know it because you may not have any signs or symptoms. The only way to find out if you have HBV is to take a blood test. On September 19, 2008, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) published updated testing guidelines for HBV infection. CDC now recommends that persons born in areas with HBsAg prevalence of ≥2% (e.g. Asia and the Pacific Islands) be screened for HBV infection, even if there are no signs or symptoms of liver disease.
What can you do to protect yourself?
The good news is that you can get vaccinated. Vaccines teach your body to attack viruses. The Hepatis B vaccine is given through 3 shots. Older children and adults can get the vaccine. Three shots over 6 months are given. You need all of the shots to be protected.
If you think you are at risk for HBV, talk to your doctor about testing. If you are not infected, you should get vaccinated to prevent you and your family from being infected.