Categorized | Health

Free Hepatitis screenings Thursday (July 28)

MEDIA RELEASE

HONOLULU – Thursday, July 28, 2011 is World Hepatitis Day in Hawai’i. The Hawai’i State Department of Health (DOH) is joining others across the nation and world, including the World Health Organization, to help raise awareness and support for improvements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for people living with chronic viral hepatitis B and C.

In collaboration with Hep Free Hawai’i, DOH health centers and other community-based sites are offering free screenings to the public on Thursday, July 28 to encourage people to find out their hepatitis B and C status. Individuals can call Aloha United Way 211 to find the free screening location nearest them (see sites on flyer below).

“Often called the silent epidemic, most people with hepatitis B or C don’t have symptoms for many years,” stated Thaddeus Pham, DOH Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator. “People with hepatitis B and C shouldn’t wait until they feel sick to be tested because there are many things, including treatment, they can do to take care of themselves before they become ill. The earlier people know they have hepatitis, the better the outcome.”

According to DOH Immunization Branch estimates, 1 percent to 3 percent of people in Hawai’i have hepatitis B, and approximately 23,000 are living with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C are the most common known causes of liver cancer in Hawai’i, and Hawaii has the highest rate of liver cancer in the U.S. The DOH monitors Hepatitis disease rates in Hawaii, in addition to more than 70 other communicable diseases to prevent and control the spread of serious illness.

“Many people with hepatitis B and C get liver damage or cirrhosis from the disease, which can be minimized by making healthy choices such as not drinking alcohol,” said Pham.

Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with blood and body fluids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that anyone who has been exposed to blood through needle use, blood transfusion, non-sterile equipment, or tattooing should be tested for both hepatitis B and C. Anyone born in a country with high rates of hepatitis B, especially countries in Asia and the Pacific, should be screened for hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is easily spread from mother to child through contact with blood and other body fluids. Infants born to mothers who have hepatitis B infection warrant special treatment at birth.

More information on hepatitis B and C is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/hepatitis, or by calling 1-888-443-7232. For more information about World Hepatitis Day, go to www.aminumber12.org

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