World Hepatitis Day

Today has been declared “World Hepatitis Day” by an international group of doctors and public health experts, who say much more needs to be done to stop the spread of this disease. Jim Bell has more.

Hepatitis B is a silent killer. People can have it for years and never know it till they develop liver cancer. Worldwide, one in every 12 people are living with Hepatitis B. There are two million cases in the United States, and, for many reasons, foreign-born Asian-Americans account for half of them. Many are born with it because their mother had it, and they spread it to their own children. It’s also highly contagious. Dr. Charles Phan of Sugar Land specializes in Hepatitis B, and he says doctors are part of the problem. Many don’t test for Hepatitis B unless a patient is showing symptoms.

“Unless they have some liver test abnormality that’s when we test them. Now we recommend testing based on the risk factors. Not just the liver test alone.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control now recommends routine Hepatitis B testing for all people from countries with high rates of the disease. Dr. Phan says doctors can help by adding routine testing to their regimens, and not just Asian-American doctors.

“The issue also is we do have a large percentage of patients seeing non-Asian physicians, who don’t test at all. So we need to both educate the Asian-American docs and also the non-Asian-American physicians also.”

Phan says there’s no cure for Hepatitis B but it can be controlled if caught early. There’s more information about Hepatitis and World Hepatitis Day on the Hepatitis Day website. Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.