What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection by the Hepatitis B virus. It can range in severity from being a mild ailment lasting a few weeks to a serious, even life threatening, lifelong illness. Although, with proper treatment, can be managed.

Who gets Hepatitis B?

While anyone can get Hepatitis B, Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) account for more than 50% of Americans with chronic Hepatitis B. Though there are several ways through which Hepatitis B infections can occur, most APIs with Hepatitis B in the US were infected as infants or young children.

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How do people get Hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and infected body fluids. Transmission can occur through:

Direct blood to blood contact

Unprotected sex

Use of unsterile needles

From an infected mother to her newborn child through the delivery process

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

  • Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection.
  • Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body. Hepatitis C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

Who Gets Hepatitis C?

Talk to your doctor about being tested for Hepatitis C if any of the following are true:

  • You were born from 1945 through 1965
  • You are a current or former injection drug user, even if you injected only one time or many years ago.
  • You were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987.
  • You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
  • You are on long-term hemodialysis treatment.
  • You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
  • You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needlestick or other sharp object injury.
  • You are infected with HIV.
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How do people get Hepatitis C?

People can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus during such activities as

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs
  • Needlestick injuries in health care settings
  • Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C

Less commonly, a person can also get Hepatitis C virus infection through

  • Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
  • Having sexual contact with a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus

What do Hepatitis B and C do?

While most healthy adults recover and develop antibodies to the hepatitis B virus, long term infection can lead to serious and debilitating liver damage including cirrhosis, cancer and even death.

Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death.

Why should I be concerned about Hepatitis B and C?

Approximately 1 in 12 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) are living with chronic Hepatitis B, but most do not know it. Hepatitis B-related liver cancer incidence is highest among APIs. It is a leading cause of cancer deaths in this population. The death rate from Hepatitis B among APIs is 7 times greater than rates among whites.

Chronic Hepatitis C is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer for any ethnicity and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Approximately 19,000 people die every year from Hepatitis C related liver disease.

How do I find out if I or a loved one has Hepatitis B or C?

A person can have the virus and not have any visible symptoms, or have symptoms so mild they are often overlooked. The only sure way to know if you have Hepatitis B or C is to have a blood test that specifically checks for the virus. Because many doctors do not see the virus as being a problem in other countries, and are unaware of the serious threat posed by Hepatitis B and C, you may have to insist on specific screening for it.

If I have Hepatitis B or C, what can/should I do?

If, after careful screening it is determined that you are indeed infected, see your doctor promptly. He or she would be the best source of advice and treatment.

Is there a cure for Hepatitis B or C?

While Hepatitis B cannot be cured, it can be successfully treated. Medical treatment and a proper lifestyle can help someone with the virus live an otherwise full, healthy life.

Acute and chronic Hepatitis C can be treated. Acute infection can clear on its own without treatment in about 25% of people. If acute hepatitis C is diagnosed, treatment does reduce the risk that acute hepatitis C will become a chronic infection. Acute hepatitis C is treated with the same medications used to treat chronic Hepatitis C. However, the optimal treatment and when it should be started remains uncertain. There are several medications available to treat chronic Hepatitis C, including new treatments that appear to be more effective and have fewer side effects than previous options.

HBI-DC is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Our organization’s mission is to mobilize communities to prevent liver diseases caused by viral hepatitis among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, African immigrants, and other high-risk groups.

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