Although routine vaccines have curtailed hepatitis B, more than one million people in the United States are living with the chronic disease, and roughly half are Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders.
Still, many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders don't realize they're at an increased risk of contracting the serious liver disease. In a recent NPR blog post, writer Amy Ta talks about her revelation that she could be infected with hepatitis B and why it's important for her community to be proactive in preventing and treating the disease. About learning that most Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are infected before arriving to the U.S., she said:
It was unnerving news for me because I was born in Vietnam and came to the US in the early 1990s.
So, I’m very vulnerable. And very embarrassed.
Why did I not know about something so widespread in my ethnic community, until now? Probably because no one really talked about it.
Stanford's Samuel So, MD, is someone who has been talking about it. He directs the Asian Liver Center, an organization dedicated to addressing the disproportionately high incidence of hepatitis B and liver cancer among Asian communities, and he is active in raising awareness of these health issues. In a 1:2:1 podcast from earlier this year, he discussed both hepatitis B and hepatitis C and about the need to revise our strategy for preventing and treating the diseases.