News from Hepatitis Week of May 4, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 18

Asian-Americans Need More Hepatitis B Education Programs

Asian-Americans are 20 to 30 times more likely to be infected by hepatitis B than any other ethnic group, but few programs exist to warn older children and young adults about the disease.

Asian-Americans make up 3.6 percent of the U.S. population, but account for half the nation's patients with hepatitis B, which some call the "silent killer" of Asian-Americans.

Thirty one states require all school children to be vaccinated for hepatitis B, but some officials believe that more government dollars should be spent to warn Asian-Americans about the need to be tested and vaccinated against the disease.

"If you're a 17-year-old Vietnamese kid, you've probably slipped through without being immunized," Steven McPhee, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told the Los Angeles Times.

"That's a population where they're beginning to get sexually active and have children. Then it's too late," McPhee added, noting that Vietnamese men have the highest rate of liver cancer in the world, much of it caused by hepatitis B.

Diep Tran, program coordinator at the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance in Garden Grove, CA., said she knows of no government-outreach programs.

"There hasn't been a strong movement on that side," Tran told the newspaper. "The community is aware of hepatitis B and liver cancer, but they don't know the extent of how the disease spreads, how you contract it or what the treatment is. There needs to be a lot more education, a lot more outreach."

Other sources: Los Angeles Times