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Asian American Community Prone To Hepatitis B infection

New York -- According to a new study by New York University School of Medicine researchers, an estimated 15% of Asians living in New York City are severely infected// with hepatitis B virus. Chronic hepatitis B infection is associated with a condition where the liver gets inflamed and can ultimately lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The new study appears in the May 12 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A total of 1,836 people were screened at 12 health care centers and community sites in New York City as part of the NYC Asian American Hepatitis B Program, which provides free screening, vaccination and treatment. It is funded by the New York City Council and the New York State and City Departments of Health. Nearly all of the participants were born in Asia; mainly in China and Korea. The was drawn from an analysis of 925 people who had never been previously tested for hepatitis B.

A person's country of birth, gender and age influenced the prevalence of chronic infection, according to the study. The infection rate was highest--greater than 30 percent--in men between 20 and 39 who were born in mainland China. "These rates are extraordinarily high and underscore the need for more intensive screening in this population," says Henry Pollack, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, and the study's lead author. "There needs to be much more public awareness of this problem and physicians caring for this population need to be more attentive to screening for hepatitis B," he says.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through unprotected sex, sharing of needles, contact with infected blood, or from mother to child at birth, but not through casual contact such as hugging or coughing. Symptoms start when the immune system starts attacking the cells in the liver that are infected with the virus. Liver damage can take decades to progress. An estimated 400 m
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