From Holy Name Medical Center:
Holy Name Medical Center is offering free screenings for hepatitis B, a viral infection that can attack the liver and often causes no symptoms. The hospital’s Chinese Medical Program is using a $50,000 grant awarded by the Center for Viral Hepatitis (CVH), a leading non-profit organization for hepatitis B screening and linkage, to care for the testing, focusing on the Chinese-American population.
“Holy Name has become a national model for delivering culturally-appropriate care and part of that mission is knowing the specific needs of our diverse communities,” said Holy Name President and CEO Michael Maron. “We are pleased to be able to offer, among our advanced medical practices, the education, screenings and treatment for diseases that are so common in our different populations.”
Nearly one out of every 20 Americans is infected with the hepatitis B virus, which is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, often from mother to child during childbirth. The virus, however, is more common in members of the Asian community; Asian-Americans are at least 10 times more likely to have or develop hepatitis B than Caucasians.
Staff members and volunteers of the Chinese Medical Program, in an attempt to reach a large number of people within the Chinese-American community, are organizing screenings at community churches. Hepatitis B screenings and vaccines are also available at the hospital’s Teaneck campus.
“We are grateful to be able to partner with the CVH for the hepatitis B screening program,” said Kyung Hee Choi, vice president of Asian Health Services at Holy Name. “Chinese Americans have the highest prevalence rate in populations in this area, and getting the screening done is the first step in achieving early detection and preventive care for this community.”
While some people with the virus do not experience symptoms and don’t know they are infected, those who do have symptoms might have yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Twenty-five percent of those carrying the virus will develop a chronic liver infection, cirrhosis of the liver or liver failure that can result in death if the disease is left untreated. Treatment can stop the progression of the acute disease, and chronic hepatitis B infection can be successfully treated with drugs.
According to Holy Name Medical Center, the most effective way to prevent the hepatitis B infection is with vaccination. Financial subsidies for vaccines are available for those with low incomes. Individuals interested in learning more about being screened or receiving a hepatitis B vaccination must call (201) 833-3388 for information.
Holy Name is also offering free hepatitis C testing through the emergency department for individuals born between 1945 and 1965. The hepatitis C virus is prevalent among this population for reasons not wholly understood, and Holy Name is using a $300,000 Gilead Sciences grant to fund the screenings. It is the only Bergen County hospital providing the free testing. Further information is available through the Holy Name Medical Center website.