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CDC Releases New Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection Testing Recommendations for Asian Pacific Islander Populations

September 19, 2008

The B Free Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Hepatitis B Disparities is in full support of the new recommendations released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase routine testing in the United States for chronic hepatitis B, a major cause of liver disease and liver cancer.  The recommendations, published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Recommendations & Reports, recommend testing all individuals born in Asia—a population disproportionately affected by chronic hepatitis B virus infection.

Nearly one in 12 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in the United States is chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus, and one-third or more are unaware of their infection. These new recommendations are critical to identifying people who are living with the disease without the benefits of medical attention.  According to the CDC, chronic hepatitis B virus infection affects the lives as many as 1.4 million Americans, many of whom do not even know they are infected. 

The CDC now recommends routine testing for individuals born in Asia, Africa, and other geographic regions with a 2 percent or higher prevalence of chronic hepatitis B virus infection, and for US-born individuals whose parents were born in regions with 8 percent or higher prevalence.  Expanded testing is essential since the rate of liver cancer deaths and chronic hepatitis B in the United States remains high among these individuals. 

CDC also recommends testing of men who have sexual contact with other men and injection drug users, as well as all pregnant women, infants born to infected mothers, household contacts and sex partners of infected individuals, and people with HIV.

The report also advises that persons with chronic hepatitis B virus infections be referred to specialists for ongoing monitoring and medical care.  Several new therapies are available, which can delay or reverse the effects of liver disease.  In addition, the recommendations urge healthcare professionals to educate their patients about hepatitis B, begin lifelong monitoring for progression of liver disease, and ensure protection of close contacts of infected persons. 

Read the official CDC Press Release here.

For more information about chronic hepatitis B virus infection visit: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HBV/TestingChronic or www.cdc.gov/hepatitis

For the September 19, 2008 MMWR visit www.cdc.gov/mmwr or download the article here.