Free Hepatitis Screenings offered as part of World Hepatitis Day

May 19, 2010, 12:05 AM HST · Updated May 19, 1:14 PM
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Today is World Hepatitis Day in Hawai’i.  The proclamation encourages residents to recognize the importance of education and encourages testing for those at risk.  Free screenings are being offered at select health centers across the state today.  According to the department of health, immunization Branch, an estimated 1-3 percent of people in Hawaii have Hepatitis B, and approximately 23,000 are living with hepatitis C.  Both are the most common known causes of liver cancer in Hawaii.

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DOH health centers and other community-based sites are offering free screenings to the public today (Wednesday, May 19, 2010) to encourage people to find out their hepatitis status.  On Maui, screenings are available from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Wailuku Health Center and at the Maui AIDS Foundation.  The Wailuku Health Center (984-2129) will be screening for both Hepatitis B & C.  The Maui AIDS Foundation (242-4900) will off free tests for Hepatitis C only.   Individuals can also call Aloha United Way 211 to find the free screening location nearest them.

“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,” she said. 

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Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with blood and body fluids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 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.  The Department of Health recommends 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.

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