WAILUKU OFFERS FREE HEPATITIS B AND C SCREENINGS FOR WORLD HEPATITIS DAY

May 19, 2009, 10:22 AM HST · Updated May 19, 10:23 AM
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Today is World Hepatitis Day. In observance, the State Department of Health is offering free Hepatitis B and C screenings today to help raise awareness and support for improvements in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  Individuals can visit the Wailuku Health center or call Aloha United Way 211 to find the free screening location nearest them.

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.  Both virus strains are spread through contact with blood and body fluids.

“Often called the silent epidemic, most people with hepatitis B or C don’t have symptoms for many years,” stated Heather Lusk, DOH hepatitis C 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.”

“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 Lusk.

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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, such as 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.

(Posted by Wendy OSHER © 2009)

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