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Hepatitis B Foundation and AAPCHO Sponsor Congressional Briefing on 'Zero Tolerance for Hepatitis B'

Spotlights National Hepatitis B Awareness Week

DOYLESTOWN, Pa., May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recognizing National Hepatitis B Awareness Week May 19 - 23, 2008, the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) is hosting a Congressional briefing, "Zero Tolerance for Hepatitis B: the Health Needs of Women and Children," on May 20 at the U.S. Capitol with special guests Congressmen Mike Honda (CA) and Charles Dent (PA). It will call urgent attention to the health needs of pregnant women infected with hepatitis B and the protection of their newborns against this deadly virus. Patients and experts from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University Hospital have been invited to testify.

"With the availability of an effective vaccine and six approved therapies for chronic hepatitis B, no woman or child should be left behind," says Dr. Timothy Block, co-founder and president, Hepatitis B Foundation. With good vaccines and treatment options, the U.S. has the tools to effectively implement a zero tolerance policy against hepatitis B to protect the health of Americans.

Hepatitis B is the deadliest disease that can be prevented through infant vaccination. In the U.S., approximately 20,000 babies are born yearly to women with hepatitis B. Despite a national requirement that all newborns be vaccinated at birth against the hepatitis B virus (HBV), up to 1,500 newborns are chronically infected with HBV. Twenty-five percent will die prematurely from liver failure or cancer, usually in the prime of their adult lives.

There are national guidelines requiring all pregnant women be tested for hepatitis B and recommendations to educate and refer infected women to care. Local and state health departments lack necessary resources to implement the recommendations. According to Jeff Caballero, executive director, AAPCHO, "This gap in care results in jeopardizing the health of these infected women and continues the devastating cycle of maternal HBV transmission between mother and her newborn."

Hepatitis B is the world's most serious common liver infection transmitted through blood, sex, drug use, and from an infected woman to her newborn. It is the primary cause of liver cancer, which is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. Worldwide, one million people die from hepatitis B each year.

Guest speakers at the May 20 Congressional briefing include Dr. Kathleen Schwarz, director, Pediatric Liver Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Dr. Mack Mitchell, chief, Division of Gastroenterology, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center; Dr. Chong Gee Teo, chief, Laboratory Branch, Division of Viral Hepatitis, CDC; Mr. Ted Fang, director, AsianWeek Foundation; and personal testimonies from California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and Lucy C.

Hepatitis B Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure and improving the quality of life for those affected with hepatitis B worldwide.

Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations represents community health organizations dedicated to the health of Asian Americans.

Contact: Leah Rice

215-340-0480 / Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link. Dr. Timothy Block Joan Block

SOURCE Hepatitis B Foundation
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