Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington sets informational forum for May 26

Hep B Website

By Mohammed Abdul-Kadir, Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington Coordinator

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It is transmitted by direct contact with blood and body fluids of a person who has the virus. In 15-40 percent of people infected, Hepatitis B may lead to serious damage to the liver, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and death.

May is Viral Hepatitis Awareness Month and the Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington (HBCW) is hosting a free informational forum from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, at the NewHolly gathering hall, 7054 32nd Ave South Seattle Washington 98118 to discuss and raise awareness about the disease.

In the US, about 2.2 million people are believed to be chronically infected with Hepatitis B, but its true prevalence is underestimated, as immigrants from countries where HBV is endemic have been under-represented. Among such communities are Asian and Pacific Islander, African, and East European immigrant and refugee communities.

Asian Americans, who make up only five percent of the total US population, account for fifty percent of Americans living with chronic Hepatitis B infection. About one in twelve Asian Americans have Hepatitis B and two in three of them do not know they are infected, as people with Hepatitis B often have no symptoms.

Asian Americans also have the highest rate of liver cancer rate: 13 times higher in Vietnamese Americans, eight times in Korean Americans, and six times in Chinese Americans than Caucasian Americans. The situation is also similar in the other communities. Although more research needs to be done, some studies have estimated the Hepatitis B prevalence rate among the African refugee and immigrant communities in the US can be as high as eight to ten percent.

Because Hepatitis B is an unmet public health issue that is highly prevalent in the originating countries where most of the immigrants and refugees in the US have immigrated from, and because a large number of immigrants and refugees have not been screened in large part because of perceived cultural barriers, the forum will focus on understanding factors that influence Hepatitis B screening behavior in the immigrant and refugee communities.

Mariko Toyoji. MPH, a research administrator at the International Community Health Services (ICHS), will make a presentation, and a panel discussion will be led by three prominent figures in the care and effort to reduce Hepatitis B health disparity in the affected communities.

The panel will include: Chia Wang, MD, a hepatologist from Virginia Mason Medical Center and who is also a medical advisor of HBCW; Genji Terasaki, MD, from the International Medicine Clinic at Harborview Medical Center; and Edith Burpee, ARNP from Seattle World School: a school-based health center.

A vegetarian and non-vegetarian dinner will be served prior to the presentation and panel discussion, and there will be live music performance by Lucy, an Ethiopian Instrumental Jazz band. The event is free but seating is limited.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Mohammed Abdul-Kadir at 206-788-3654 or mohammedak@ichs.com