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High Rate of Hepatitis B in Asian Patients in New York

Fifteen percent of newly screened Asians/Pacific Islanders in New York City infected

FRIDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Approximately 15 percent of newly tested Asians/Pacific Islanders living in New York City are infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), a prevalence 35 times higher than the general U.S. population, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report May 12 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Such patients are at high risk of developing liver disease and liver cancer.

Researchers at the Asian American Hepatitis B Program performed HBV tests on 925 patients at least 20 years old during the first half of 2005 who had not been previously screened. The majority were born in China or South Korea, 50.6 percent had been living in the United States for more than 10 years, 76.6 percent lacked health insurance, and 13.3 percent reported a family history of HBV infection.

Overall, 14.8 percent had chronic HBV infection, a prevalence approximately 35 times that of the general U.S. population. The prevalence ranged from 21.4 percent among those born in China to 4.6 percent among those born in South Korea, with no HBV infection among the 10 participants born in the United States. Other studies have found HBV prevalences of 10 percent to 15 percent among Asian/Pacific Islanders in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and California.

"Public health agencies and medical providers who serve U.S. Asian/Pacific Islander populations and other communities with high proportions of persons born in countries where HBV infection is endemic should promote educational campaigns and screening programs," CDC officials conclude.

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