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Viral Hepatitis Action Alert!

*ACTION ALERT*

HAP – Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership

 Urge Your Members of Congress to Support Viral Hepatitis Funding

In Their Appropriations Programmatic Requests

 

 

With the passage of the continuing resolution (CR) for FY2013 at the FY2012 levels (before the sequester) and no Prevention and Public Health Fund allocations, we do not know the total, final funding level for FY2013 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) or the future of the $10 million they received in FY2012 for a testing initiative. The President’s FY2014 budget has not yet been released. We need your help in raising awareness among Members of Congress about the viral hepatitis epidemics and asking their support for increased funding for viral hepatitis activities at the federal level.  Viral hepatitis advocates are urging for a total funding at the Division of Viral Hepatitis of $35 million, an increase of $5.3 above the total FY2012 level.

In the next week and a half, all Senators and Representatives will write their “programmatic appropriations request letters,” which ask members of the Appropriations Subcommittees (who put together the federal funding legislation) to include funding for their priorities. The more Members of Congress that include a request for hepatitis funding in their letters, the greater the likelihood the Appropriators will include additional funding in FY2014.

As you know, viral hepatitis impacts over 5.3 million people nationwide. With a lack of a comprehensive surveillance system, these estimates are likely only the tip of the iceberg and 75% of those infected do not know their status. Even with these daunting figures, there are only $19.7 million in federal funding dedicated to fund viral hepatitis activities nationwide at the CDC in the CR for FY2013, before sequester.  Members of Congress need to know that viral hepatitis is a concern in their district, that their constituents are being affected and that this is an issue they need to care about. We need you to tell your story and ask your elected representatives to take action by April 12.

Additionally, the CDC released FY2012 Grant Funding Profiles by state, here. When you click on your state and “Generate Report,” your state’s viral hepatitis funding is included in the report.

Step-by-step instructions on what to do are below:

1.   Determine what Members of Congress to contact.  You should contact your personal Member of the House of Representatives and two Senators.  You should also contact other House Members in areas where your organization is located or provides services.  To determine who your Representative is please go to www.house.gov and type in your zip code(s); to determine who your Senators are go to www.senate.gov and select your state from the drop down menu.

2.   Call the Members’ Offices to get the name and correct spelling of their health staff person.  Email the staff using the draft email text below.  House staff emails are First.Last@mail.house.gov (john.smith@mail.house.gov) Senate staff emails are First_Last@Last name of Senator.Senate.gov (john_smith@doe.senate.gov)

Sample email:
Your Name
State and Zip code

Dear (Name of Health Staffer):

My name is ____________ and I live in City/State. I am writing to urge Representative/Senator________________ to include funding for viral hepatitis in his/her Fiscal Year 2012 programmatic appropriations request letter.  [Include brief details on the impact of viral hepatitis on yourself or describe your organization].

There are over 5.3 million Americans impacted by viral hepatitis but, in FY2012, the only dedicated federal funding stream provided a mere $29.7 million through CDC.  This is insufficient to provide the most basic public health services such as education, counseling, testing, or medical management for people living with or at risk of viral hepatitis.

I urge Representative/Senator ___________ to support a total funding level of $35 million for the Division of Viral Hepatitis in FY2014 to effectively combat these epidemics.  I will be following up with you in the near future to discuss this request.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions.

Thank you again for consideration of my request.

Your Name

3.   Follow-up with the staff you have emailed with a phone call to confirm they received the request and to determine when they may have an answer from their bosses as to whether or not they will include a hepatitis funding request in their Appropriation programmatic request letter.  If asked, make it clear to the staff that this is a program request and NOT a project request (i.e. money for a district specific project like a bridge, hospital or university).  You may need to follow-up again around the time the staff says they will have an answer from their chain of command.

4.   If you need assistance or want to talk through the process please email or call Oscar Mairena at (202) 434-8058 or omairena@NASTAD.org. If the staff member requests “report language” or “program language,” please contact Oscar and he will provide that for you. Please also share positive responses with the Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership by contacting Oscar.

Oscar Mairena
Manager, Viral Hepatitis/Policy and Legislative Affairs
National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
444 North Capitol Street NW, Suite 339
Washington, DC  20001
Phone: (202) 434.8058      Fax: (202) 434.8092
omairena@NASTAD.org     www.NASTAD.org
“Bridging Science, Policy and Public Health”

 

 

 

 

The Hepatitis B Foundation Participates in Liver Capitol Hill Day, 2013 – A Personal Reflection

Yesterday the Hepatitis B Foundation participated in the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) annual “Liver Capitol Hill Day” visits. This is a great opportunity to get in front of state Senators and Congressmen in order to make requests known to them. It is also an opportunity to educate. As a constituent, your state representatives are interested in what you have to say. The “Asks” for the day were to support funding for liver related research, prevention strategies, and support of liver patient access to quality medical care.  Specifically, we were asking for NIH funding growth, rather than the 20% cut over the last decade, along with support of government agencies such as the CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis, and the delivery of health care systems and payment policies for patients living with liver diseases.  Prevention is also critical with specific asks for new, one-time hepatitis C testing and screening for hepatitis B for at-risk patients. As we are all aware, budgets are tight and we will all soon feel the effects of the Sequester. Research programs may no longer be funded, or severely cut, public health agencies and programs will be cut, and patients who are currently receiving medical assistance will suffer. For treated patients with HBV, it is essential nothing interrupts the daily antiviral use, and of course HBV and liver cancer prevention through screening, vaccination and surveillance is both necessary and cost effective in the long run.

Due to the Sequester, the day started in a panic for many Hill visitors. I was fortunate to arrive early – a good thing since I waited in a long security line for 45 minutes that wrapped around the building. As Maryland residents, Dave Li and I met with staff from both Senator Ben Cardin’s (D) and Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D) offices.  Senator Mikulski was recently appointed the Chairperson of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. This means she will have a great deal of influence on budget and spending decisions. We were told that due to the Sequester, the Continuing Resolution (CR) will remain in place for the remainder of the 2013, but Senator Mikulski is optimistic that the FY14 and future funding for the NIH, specifically, will be maintained. As a Maryland Senator, this is extremely important to Sen. Mikulski on many fronts. Senator Cardin has been making visits to agencies in MD, including the NIH, and researchers are frustrated they are unable to do their work.  Both Senator Cardin and Senator Mikulski support federal agencies (such as the CDC, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Public Health Agency etc.) and initiatives that provide care and services to meet the health care needs of Marylanders.  Fortunately this supports the Health and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Viral Hepatitis Action Plan initiatives, since both Senators are supportive of prevention and surveillance initiatives.  Dave and I walked out of our Senate meeting feeling pretty good.

Unfortunately, the outlook was not so optimistic on the House side. We visited staffers from Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Elijah Cummings offices. Although they are working on budgets, they are meeting with opposition and resigned to deep cuts in their supported programs.  Congressman Cumming’s staffer was pleased to hear an optimistic viewpoint from Mikulski’s office.  Although clearly mixed signals from our House and Senate meetings, we can only hope that Congress will eventually work together and move forward with continued funding of agencies and programs that support those living with liver disease.

Please remember that your state Senators and Representatives have been voted to serve YOU. It is imperative that your voice be heard. If you don’t let them know what is important to you, important programs and agencies will be drastically cut.  You do not need to be a political machine to participate. Don’t know your Representative?   Find your Rep. on-line by putting in your zip code or state to learn who you need to contact. Find your Senator, Governor and Congressmen here. Call the Capitol switchboard’s toll free number at 1-888-876-6242 , or send an email  or letter with your asks, and your personal stories. Be sure your message is clear and concise, and personalize it if you can. You can visit your Representative or Senator when you are visiting Washington, D. C., or in the local, state office. Let your voice be heard – especially during this very difficult time.

High Viral Load, HBeAg Positivity Increased Risk for Mother-to-Infant HBV Transmission

The study published by Healio Hepatology, March 8, 2013 discusses the increased risk of mother-to-infant transmission in HBV positive moms who are HBeAg positive and have a high viral load. Current prophylaxis, where infants of HBsAg+ moms receive the first shot of the HBV vaccine and a shot of HBIG within 12 hours of birth, is successful greater than 90% of the time. However, according to the study, HBeAg+ pregnant moms with a viral load above 10cp/mL(10,000,000 cp/mL) will transmit the virus to their infant despite prophylaxis. Since a particularly elevated viral load appears to determine the failure of current prophylaxis, the need for additional screening for these women and revised intervention strategies is necessary to prevent transmission to their babies at birth.

If you are a pregnant mom that is HBsAg+, please see a liver specialist for further evaluation to determine your HBeAg status and your HBV DNA viral load. If you are HBeAg + and have a high viral load, (a viral load near the 10,000,000 cp/ml threshold) you will want to talk to your liver specialist to determine if you and your baby would benefit from antiviral therapy in order to prevent transmission of HBV to your newborn. Although there are no official guidelines or recommendations, Registry data shows medications for hepatitis B appear safe during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a good option for you and your baby.

If you are a pregnant woman, please read and print HBF’s Chronic Hepatitis B in Pregnancy, and give it to the doctor who will be caring for you during your pregnancy. Sadly, IOM data shows HBV+ women in the U.S. are not always identified and educated about their HBV, and an opportunity for prophylaxis may be missed despite CDC recommendations that ALL infants receive the first dose of the HBV vaccine prior to hospital discharge.

If you live in a developing country, there may be no guidelines in place that automatically screen pregnant women for hepatitis B. Once again, read and print a copy of “Chronic Hepatitis B in Pregnancy” for your doctor. Insist you are screened for HBV, and if you are HBsAg+, please be sure prophylaxis will be available at the hospital where you will give birth to your baby. If you find you are HBeAg+, with a high viral load, please speak to a liver specialist to see if an antiviral is an option for you to prevent HBV transmission to your baby. Don’t’ forget to have your baby tested at 18 months to ensure your baby is HBV free.

*Please note you can convert copies per milliliter (cp/ml) to IU/mL for the article below using WHO’s international standard where 1 IU/mL = 5.2 copies/mL. Please ask your doctor or your lab if you have specific questions regarding the conversion.


Infants born to mothers with a high hepatitis B viral load, particularly those positive for hepatitis B e antigen, are at high risk for contracting hepatitis despite immunoprophylaxis, according to recent results.

Researchers evaluated 303 mother-infant pairs in which mothers tested positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Maternal viral load and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) status were determined, and children were tested for HBsAg at ages 4 to 8 months (n=250) and/or 1 to 3 years (n=53 for an initial test; n=183 for a follow-up test). All children received HBV vaccine within the first week of birth and at 1 and 6 months, with a 100% completion rate; children born to mothers who tested positive for HBeAg received hepatitis B immunoglobulin within 24 hours of birth.

HBeAg-positive mothers (81 cases) had higher viral loads than those who did not (7.4 ± 1.9 log10 copies/mL vs. 2.7 ± 1.4 log10 copies/mL; P<.0001 for difference). Chronic HBV infection was identified in 10 children, all born to HBeAg-positive mothers with high viral loads (range 6.5-9.5 log10 copies/mL), and all with the same HBV genotypes and subtypes as their mothers.

Investigators identified a significant association between maternal viral load and a child’s risk for infection via multivariate analysis, after adjusting for factors including age; birth type; infant gender, weight and gestational age, and feeding practices (adjusted OR=3.49; 95% CI, 1.63-.7.48 per log10 copy/mL increase). Predictive rates for maternally transmitted HBV infection were found to be statistically significant at 7 (6.6%; P=.033), 8 (14.6%; P=.001), and 9 (27.7%; P<.001) log10 copies/mL.

“High maternal viral load is the most important factor causing maternally transmitted HBV infection, and is significantly correlated with maternal HBeAg status,” the researchers wrote. “Our predictive model including multiple risk factors showed that children with a maternal viral load above 10,000,000 to 100,000,000 copies/mL (or would have a significant risk of infection despite immunoprophylaxis. Our data provide important information for the rational design of future screening and intervention strategies to further reduce maternally transmitted HBV infection.”

Wen W-H. J Hepatol. 2013;doi:10.1016/j.jhep.2013.02.015.

March 8, 2013

Justice Department Settles with the UMDNJ Over Discrimination Against People with Hepatitis B

Direct from the Department of Justice (see below), the first DOJ settlement of an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) case involving people with hepatitis B was announced.  The Hepatitis B Foundation is proud to have played a critical role in successfully advocating for these students who suffered from discrimination as a result of chronic hepatitis B infection.

You may recall an earlier story posted both in the HBF Spring Newsletter, 2012 and the HBF’s Hep B Blog, “Dreams on Hold – A personal story of an aspiring medical student .“ This was one of four cases that spurred the HBF into action on behalf of these students and their rights.

July 2011, a meeting was convened by the CDC, with the HBF and others, resulting in the July 2012 CDC update “Recommendations for the Management of Hepatitis B virus-Infected Health Care Providers and Students. ”These recommendations were cited in the DOJ statement and clearly contributed to the DOJ settlement on behalf of people living with chronic HBV eliminating them from being excluded or discriminated against due to health issues. Since all applicants are from the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, which accounts for more than 50% of Americans living with chronic HBV, The DOJ assures that the Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring discrimination does not occur in this community as a result of this disability.  On behalf of those living with HBV, the HBF applauds this decision by the DOJ. 

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School (UMDNJ) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   The settlement resolves complaints that the UMDNJ School of Medicine and the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine unlawfully excluded applicants because they have hepatitis B.   This is the first ADA settlement ever reached by the Justice Department on behalf of people with hepatitis B.In 2011, the two applicants in this matter applied and were accepted to the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine, and one of them was also accepted to the UMDNJ School of Medicine. The schools later revoked the acceptances when the schools learned that the applicants have hepatitis B.   The Justice Department determined that the schools had no lawful basis for excluding the applicants, especially because students at the schools are not even required to perform invasive surgical procedures, and that the exclusion of the applicants contradicts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance on this issue.

According to the CDC’s July 2012 “Updated Recommendations for Preventing Transmission and Medical Management of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) – Infected Health Care Workers and Students,” no transmission of Hepatitis B has been reported in the United States from primary care providers, clinicians, medical or dental students, residents, nurses, or other health care providers to patients since 1991.

“Excluding people with disabilities from higher education based on unfounded fears or incorrect scientific information is unacceptable,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.   “We applaud the UMDNJ for working cooperatively with the Justice Department to resolve these matters in a fair manner.”

“It is especially important that a public institution of higher learning – especially one with a mission to prepare future generations of medical professionals – strictly follow the laws Congress has enacted to protect from discrimination those people who have health issues,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman. “The remedies to which the school has agreed should ensure this does not happen again.”

Under the settlement agreement, the UMDNJ must adopt a disability rights policy that is based on the CDC’s Hepatitis B recommendations, permit the applicants to enroll in the schools, provide ADA training to their employees and provide the applicants a total of $75,000 in compensation and tuition credits.

Both of the applicants in this matter come from the Asian American Pacific Islander community. The CDC reports that Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up less than 5 percent of the total population in the United States, but account for more than 50 percent of Americans living with chronic Hepatitis B.   Nearly 70 percent of AAPIs living in the United States were born, or have parents who were born, in countries where hepatitis B is common. Most AAPIs with Hepatitis B contracted Hepatitis B during childbirth .   The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that this community is not subjected to discrimination because of disability.

Title II of the ADA prohibits state and local government entities, like the UMDNJ, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in programs, services, and activities. State and local governments must also make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless those modifications would result in a fundamental alteration.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at the website www.justice.gov/crt.  More information about the ADA and today’s agreement with UMDNJ can be accessed at the ADA website at www.ada.gov or by calling the toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).

 

 

 

 

 

Liver Cancer Webinar Series: What You Need to Know

Missed the webinar? Download the March 6th Webinar and listen to Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer: What You Need to Know, by Dr. Robert Gish

Due to an overwhelming response, continued registration for  this Wednesday’s webinar with Dr. Gish is closed. Stay tuned as the webinar will be recorded in it’s entirety, and will be made available. Stay tuned for details! 

Did you know?

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the seventh most common cancer worldwide. But the major causes of liver cancer— such as chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C, and cirrhosis— are largely preventable. And treatments for liver cancer are available.

Learn more about liver cancer

Join The Hepatitis B Foundation’s webinar series to learn about the risk factors for liver cancer and the importance of liver cancer screening and surveillance. The expert presenters will describe currently available treatment options and clinical trials.

The first webinar of the series will be Liver Cancer and Hepatitis B: What You Need to Know, presented by Robert G. Gish, MD, an internationally renowned liver diseases expert.

Dr. Gish is a Clinical Professor of Medicine, Section Chief of Hepatology, and Co-Director of the Center for Hepatobiliary Disease and Abdominal Transplantation at the University of California, San Diego Health Systems.

Dr. Gish has an active research program in viral hepatitis and has published more than 600 original articles, abstracts, and book chapters, and more than 120 peer-reviewed publications.

Liver Cancer and Hepatitis B: What You Need to Know webinar details:

Presented by:Dr. Robert G. Gish
Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Time: 12 noon EST; 9 am PST
Click here to register

For additional accurate, easy-to-understand information on liver cancer, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation’s new, dedicated website, www.LiverCancerConnect.org.

 

Cleaning Up and Staying Safe at College

Whether you have hepatitis B or not, you will want to follow some simple clean-up rules now that you are living in a more public environment and away from home. (Take a look at the previous blog – Off to College with HBV.) Regardless of your living arrangements – dorm room, quad, or apartment, you will want to set a couple of ground rules, and be prepared for maintenance, and possible emergency spot cleaning.

Bathrooms are a breeding ground for a plethora of bacteria and viruses. They are the site of all kinds of planned and unplanned, natural and unnatural biological and human functions that produce blood, bodily fluids, and all kinds of other body by-products.  They are shared spaces where very private things occur. They are shared spaces where there’s a whole other microbial world living off of all the human activities that occur in the bathroom. That is why bathrooms should be cleaned properly and regularly.  It’s good practice and keeps everyone healthy.

Standard or universal precautions are  prevention methods that should be integrated into everyone’s life.  The whole goal is to prevent contact with an infectious agent such as HIV, HCV and HBV, assuming all possible blood or bodily fluids may be contaminated. They remind you to provide a barrier between you and any potentially contaminated blood or body fluid, whether it is in an emergency situation with a bleeding person, or the cleanup of blood or bodily fluids. It’s yet another reminder to “wash your hands”, and basically use common sense.  In the case of HBV or other infectious diseases (HCV, HIV), blood in particular may contain high concentrations of virus which could be transmitted to others through mucous membranes, orifices, or microscopic cuts in the skin.  HBV is a tenacious virus and can live outside the body for seven days. Fortunately, HBV is vaccine preventable.

If you live in a dorm, with shared, floor bathrooms, they should be cleaned and maintained by the janitorial staff. However, it’s good to be prepared for an emergency spill in your room, or the bathroom at odd hours. If you live in a quad or apartment with others, you’ll want to be sure to set up a chore chart so that common areas like bathrooms and kitchens are properly cleaned, and that trash is regularly disposed.  If you don’t set the ground rules from the start there are bound to be hard feelings among your roommates.

Weekly bathroom maintenance should include the disinfection of surfaces on toilets, sinks and showers.  The general rule is clean first and then disinfect.  This does take some time since the bathroom cleaner is first sprayed and allowed to sit for at least 30 seconds (times will vary with the disinfectant or depending on your source), and then cleaned with towels, (to be disposed, or laundered separately in hot water with detergent and a little bleach) and then disinfected with the same cleaner and allowed to sit for at least five minutes, and then finally wiped down again with clean towels.  Don’t know how many housekeepers follow this rule of thumb, but use common sense and think about how you use your towels as you clean from surface to surface.  In between cleanings, use disposable bleach wipes to wipe the toilet and sink, and don’t be stingy with them.

Keep the container of bleach wipes in plain sight so visitors have the option to wipe the toilet, sink, or clean up after an accident – hopefully not with the same wipe. (You may find it interesting to note that the sink is often the greatest source of bacteria…a moist environment with plenty of microbial snacks including skin flakes and other organic fodder) Don’t forget to put out a container of liquid soap to encourage hand washing, and if you are a female at college, be sure that all used feminine hygiene products are carefully disposed of in plastic bags.

When it comes to cleaning up a blood or body fluid spill, it is essential to follow the rules.  All blood should be considered contaminated with an infectious agent such as HCV, HIV or HBV.  If you are assisting your friend or roommate in the case of an emergency, be sure you have a barrier between you and your bleeding friend – of course this is after you have called 911 if this is a true emergency..  Disposable gloves are perfect, but in a pinch, put plastic bags on your hands, or use a clean sanitary pad, or bunch of towels (paper or cloth) to staunch the flow of blood.  When you are finished with the emergency, dispose of contaminated articles and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water before progressing to the cleanup.  Hopefully your roommate will be able to clean up his own spill, but it’s possible he’ll need some help.

Bleach is a wonderful disinfectant, and effectively kills HBV, and other pathogens.  Don your disposable gloves, and  prepare a fresh bleach solution for the cleanup that is one part bleach to nine parts cool water.  Use a fresh solution as the potency of the solution quickly diminishes, and do not use hot water.  Remember the proper order – clean, then disinfect.  When cleaning a surface that is known to contain a potential contaminant (blood or bodily fluid), spray it with the bleach solution and let it sit for a few minutes.   While wearing gloves, cleanup the spill with disposable rags or paper towels.  Dispose of the contaminated towels, and gloves.  Don a new pair of gloves and once again spray the area.  Let is sit and disinfect for at least 10 minutes and wipe again with clean towels.  Dispose of contaminated towels and gloves in a seal-able plastic bag.

If you are in a dorm shared-bathroom, it’s possible to walk into a mess you choose not to clean up, but be sure to alert floor mates of the contaminated area with a sign so others are not accidentally exposed to the potential contaminant, and to alert the janitorial staff of the spill.   It’s a courtesy, but it also keeps everyone safe.

There are also EPA registered disinfectants that are premixed and kill infectious diseases, but be sure that HBV is specifically listed as it is a more difficult virus to kill.  The times to soak and disinfect vary with each product, and the times I found for basic disinfection varied in my research, so when you’re making the effort, be sure to take the extra time to ensure you have killed all possible contaminants.  These pre-mixed disinfectants are more convenient, but they are also more expensive, and you need to check the dates to ensure they remain effective and have not expired.

Here are list of supplies to have on hand for your room or apartment that specifically relate to blood and body fluid cleanups:

  • 1 small bottle of bleach
  • 1 squirt bottle (pre-marked with a sharpie to denote bleach and water quantities.. 1 part bleach to 9 parts cool water)
  • Box of disposable gloves
  • plastic bags – trash and sandwich bags
  • disposable towels or paper towels

You’ll need a list of other supplies if you want to keep that bathroom relatively germ free.  Don’t forget the liquid soap and the bleach wipes!

 

Off to College With Hepatitis B

Are you ready to head off to college?  Are you concerned about your HBV status?  Here are a few things to consider…

If you live in the U.S. your roomate(s) will most likely be vaccinated for hepatitis B, so you shouldn’t need to worry about disclosure.  Later on in your relationship you can decide whether or not you want to disclose your HBV status to your roommate, other friends, or SOs.  For now it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.  Once the info is out, you cannot take it back.

If you are sexually active you will want to consider how you will handle these relationships.  HBV is spread through vaginal or anal sex so you want to be sure to practice safe sex for the benefit of both you and your partner.  Please use a condom to ensure there is no transmission of STDs and other infectious diseases.  There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, but not for HCV and HIV.  If you are living with HBV, you are well aware that you do not want an HBV coinfection with either HCV or HIV.  Coinfections are more complicated and more difficult to treat and manage.  Play it safe and use a condom.

It’s great to be on your own at college.  Days and nights learning, studying and preparing for a bright future, branching out on your own… away from mom and dad.  Quite often it’s time for a little experimentation, a little craziness, or just plain fun.

It’s a time to interact with lots of different kinds of people.  Sometimes you have control over these interactions and sometimes you don’t.  You can’t control all of these things, but you can control parts of your own little environment.

Get yourself a bag for your personal toiletries.  Whether you’re using bathroom and shower facilities on the dorm floor, living in a quad, or sharing an apartment with roommates, you’ll want to be sure to keep your personal items in a separate bag and out of sight of floor mates, roommates and visitors.

We all know that HBV and other infectious agents are transmitted via contaminated bodily fluids – especially blood, semen and vaginal fluids.  Store your razor inside your bag, and be sure you do NOT leave it in the shower stall.  Razors are an effective transmission vehicle for infectious disease like HBV or even HCV and HIV.  If you leave your razor in the shower, you cannot assume that someone else has not used it.  Throw it away and start fresh.

This goes for nail accessories like clippers, cuticle cutters or even files.  Keep them in your bag and keep them out of sight from roommates and other visitors.  Few people think twice about picking up a pair of nail clippers or a nail file.

Communal items such as soap should be liquid soap and not bar soap.  Don’t share any body jewelry including pierced earrings.

Don’t forget about your toothbrush.  I can still remember a friend mentioning that he had borrowed my toothbrush, after visiting.  Unfortunately he mentioned it after I had already brushed my teeth.  Disgusting!  Do you really want anyone using your toothbrush??  After the fact, it’s too late to do anything about it.  You need to be proactive to make sure these little mishaps don’t occur.  Put your personal items away and out of sight.

Then there are the visitors…  Most likely you won’t have control of everyone in and out of your room or apartment.  My college roommate and her boyfriend loved that I was organized and prepared for all scenarios.  They were constantly “borrowing” my things.  I wish I had the courage to tell my roommate’s boyfriend that I would prefer he wash my pillowcase after he borrowed my pillow, along with all of the other things he helped himself to without asking.  Keep your personal items separate, and let your roommate know that your boundaries are to be respected. Establish these boundaries up front!

Perhaps you’re worried about what others might think of your toiletries bag, or that you like your personal things respected.  Don’t tell them you’ve got HBV.  Just laugh and tell them you’re a “germaphobe”. By keeping personal items out of view and sequestered in your own bag, everyone is protected.

Be sure to read the follow-on blog: Cleaning up and Staying Safe at College. 

Gearing up for World Hepatitis Day!

World Hepatitis Day is July 28th!  What are you doing to raise awareness and educate others about hepatitis B?  I asked this on HBF’s facebook page, and a friend from Ghana wondered what he could do to help raise awareness.  Another friend replied about his concern with HBV in Malawi.

When you consider the scope of hepatitis B, globally, it is indeed sobering.  Statistically, two billion people have been infected with hepatitis B worldwide, and 400 million are chronically infected.  Don’t let these numbers discourage you from your efforts.

When I returned from China in 2003, my heart was heavy with the burden the Chinese people experience on a day-to-day basis, living with HBV.  At the time I was providing infectious disease training for specific groups of Chinese people, but of course in the scheme of things, the outreach effort seemed minimal when compared to the burden.  I had to focus my efforts one-person-at-a-time.  I couldn’t let the sheer numbers discourage me from my mission to educate and raise HBV awareness at any level.

If you have the money or the connections to do something in a big way, that is wonderful.  Then many will benefit from your contribution.  However, I think it is important to note that hepatitis B education and awareness is fundamentally carried out at a grassroots level, where small numbers of individuals band together to make a difference.   Organizations like the Hepatitis B Foundation are crucial due to their ability to reach out and impact larger numbers of people through research, outreach, education and increased HBV awareness.  Utilize their website, social media channels and outreach to gain and share educational information, and help raise awareness.

So what can you do as an individual?  First thing you need to do is get educated on viral hepatitis.  There is much confusion among people about how HBV is transmitted.  If you mention hepatitis B, someone will invariably say, “oh yes.  My uncle got that from eating contaminated food!”  Well, he did get NOT hepatitis B from food!  Know the ABC’s of viral hepatitis, and eliminate these myths.  Hepatitis B is not spread casually, or by sharing a meal, hugging or kissing someone with hep B.  However, HBV is non-discriminating, and we are all vulnerable if we are not vaccinated.

Learn the facts about HBV.  Know some of the statistics, and how it is transmitted.  Know the difference between an acute infection vs. a chronic infection.  Know that 90% of adults will clear an acute infection, while 90% of infants infected will surely live with hepB for life.  Be sure safe injection and medical practices are followed in health care settings.

To raise awareness and eliminate confusion, you don’t have to know the details of surface antigens, antibodies or how to interpret blood test results.  You can look that up on HBF’s website!   This detailed info comes with time.  Start with the hep B basics.  If you are educated, you can educate others.

Learn about the HBV vaccination.  Know that if you are in a high risk group, you should be screened before you are vaccinated.  The vaccine doesn’t work if you already have hepB!  If you are not infected, then get vaccinated.  Let everyone know why vaccination is necessary.  Encourage pregnant women to be screened for HBV.  Ninety percent of  mother-to-child transmission of HBV can be eliminated by ensuring an infant receives a birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, followed by the other two shots in the series.  If HBIG is available to newborns of infected mothers, that is even better.

Many believe that hepatitis B will not affect them because they may not have symptoms. They do not realize HBV is a silent epidemic.  They may not realize the importance of their non-complaining liver, and how HBV can destroy it over time.

If you or loved ones have HBV, be sure you are vaccinated for Hepatitis A.  Take care of your liver and abstain from alcohol and tobacco use.  Eat a healthy diet, and practice safe sex.  Practice standard precautions.  Use common sense!

Now for the outreach part… Depending on your hep B status, you might be reluctant to share your new found information with everyone.  Start with your family, friends and household contacts.  They may not understand the global significance of HBV.  It’s okay to start small.

If you’re ready to increase your effort, then reach out to your church, and your community.  Join with others and participate in local city or village health center and community awareness events.  Join an HBV support group, and if you’re interested, create a language specific group for your country.  Volunteer, speak out, and help educate the masses of people who are unaware that HBV is truly a silent epidemic.

Together we can make a difference!