The report will be published in the July print issue of the journal Hepatology.
Hepatitis B affects as many as 400 million people around the world. If left untreated, up to 25 percent of those infected are at risk of dying from liver cancer or liver disease.
In 2006, the CDC estimated that some 800,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States had the virus.
For this study, a research team led by Dr. Carol Brosgart, a member of the faculty at the division of global health at the University of California, San Francisco, and senior advisor on science and policy to the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition at the CDC Foundation, looked at all the medical literature on the prevalence of hepatitis B around the world from 1980 to 2010.
That analysis revealed that in 2009, between 1.04 million and 1.61 million people born abroad who were living in the United States had chronic hepatitis B.
Those infected came mostly from Asia, Africa and Central America, accounting for 58 percent, 11 percent and 7 percent of cases, respectively, which is much higher than previously thought, the researchers noted.
"This study highlights an important health concern for the U.S. and the need for broader hepatitis B screening of foreign-born individuals," Brosgart said in a statement. "Given our ability to treat chronic hepatitis B virus and to monitor for emergence of liver cancer when it is treatable, physicians should screen the foreign-born, their children and close contacts."
Another expert, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, added that "we have an epidemic of hepatitis B around the world and we have to be alert to it in people who move here from other countries."
In addition, its prevalence in the United States has been underestimated, as this study confirms, he said.
It's easy to get the virus, which is usually transmitted se
All rights reserved