Hep B Blog

Category Archives: Hepatitis B Prevention

Team Helpatitis: Students and Teachers Come Together to Raise Awareness of Hepatitis B in India! 

 

Hepatitis B is a critical public health crisis in India.  With over 40 million HBV carriers, it is estimated that over 115,000 people die each year from hepatitis B related causes and one million newborn babies are at risk of developing hepatitis B in India. 1 

In an effort to raise awareness for hepatitis B and contribute to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) viral hepatitis elimination plan, teachers and students at Amity International School in New Delhi, India launched Team Helpatitis to promote hepatitis B education.. Science teachers have integrated hepatitis B education in their extra-curricular activities to teach students about chronic hepatitis and liver health. School events and festivals have provided unique opportunities for students, teachers, and parents to come together and learn about the importance of prevention strategies like hepatitis B screenings in making India hepatitis free!  

Diwali Lamps Bring Hope and Awareness to the hepatitis B Cause in India 

During the month of Diwali, a religious festival of lights, Team Helpatitis students designed liver shaped oil lamps to promote awareness. These lamps are made from clay pots and are lit every year on Diwali to represent the transition from darkness into light in the coming new year. Students and teachers hope to combat the stigma and misconceptions associated with hepatitis B though these lamps. The lamps were distributed to school students and teachers to bring home and share the important message of hope and resilience with their friends and families. 

 

 

 

 

 

The liver shaped lamps were sculpted, packaged, and distributed by the students and teachers to raise awareness of hepatitis B during the Diwali festivities at their school.

Pin-O-Liv: Dart Throwing Competition to Understand the Difference between Good and Bad Liver Habits! 

The Winter Carnival at Amity International provided a platform for students to showcase their learning outside of the classroom and educate attendees about healthy and unhealthy habits for their liver. The students chose an interactive sport to keep the players informed and entertained. They created a dartboard with pictures representing good and bad lifestyle habits and their impact on the liver. Before the game, players were briefed on liver health and ways to keep the liver healthy and safe. Players were given five darts and challenged to hit the images with unhealthy habits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students participate in the dart-throwing competition to “kill” the bad habits that destroy our liver

Livbola: Students reinvent tambola to promote hepatitis B education among children and adults 

Tambola is a slightly different version of Bingo and is a beloved pastime of south Asian communities. The students were given a short presentation on hepatitis B and liver cancer. They were then introduced to the rules of the game and were quizzed on questions related to hepatitis and liver health. Prizes were distributed to players to encourage participation. The players included students, school staff, and community members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

School staff, students, and parents play the Livbola game during their annual winter carnival

The Hepatitis B Foundation was recently approached by the teachers at Team Helpatitis for a live session on hepatitis B. The Foundation met with the students and teachers via zoom a few weeks ago and discussed the physical, social, and financial impact of hepatitis B.  We also discussed the importance of preventative strategies like vaccines in promoting positive health outcomes for all communities.  

 

 

 

 

 

The students and teachers of Amity International School met with the Foundation for an introductory session on hepatitis B on zoom.

 

By participating in these activities, projects, and festivities with the help of their school’s leadership and administration, Team Helpatitis has expanded their reach beyond the classroom and amplified the voices of public health workers, advocates, and people living with hepatitis B! Check out Team Helpatitis’ social media channels to stay updated! 

Team Helpatitis’ Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/helpatitis_aisv1_yppteam/ 

 

References: 

chrome extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/searo/india/health-topic-pdf/factsheet-b-hepatitisday2016.pdf?sfvrsn=da61ef0_2#:~:text=In%20India%2C%20the%20prevalence%20of,D%2C%20followed%20by%20Aand%20C. 

Premkumar, M., & Kumar Chawla, Y. (2021). Chronic Hepatitis B: Challenges and Successes in India. Clinical liver disease, 18(3), 111–116. https://doi.org/10.1002/cld.1125 

 

Ignore it till it goes away! A hepatitis B vignette.

The Scenario:

Woman is sick on couch, her husband is giving her an ice pack

Aroha Kawai just started a new job as a medical interpreter for Pacific Islander patients diagnosed with COVID-19. As a critical source of communication for the providers and the patients, she is often called to work night and weekend shifts. Aroha had a difficult conversation with the family members of a critical COVID-19 patient on whether they should discontinue ventilation support for the ailing grandmother. During this time, Aroha’s family noticed changes in her behavior. She stopped eating regularly, lost weight and repeatedly cancelled plans to go out. Aroha dismissed her family’s concerns as physical manifestations of the emotional burnout from work.

People are at a free hepatitis B screening event in a park.

Recently she attended a health fair hosted by her department at work. She approached a viral hepatitis screening booth and decided to get tested for hepatitis B. The following week, she received her results in the mail. Her results indicated that she had tested positive for hepatitis B. She shared her diagnosis with her mother who informed her that her grandfather died from liver cancer.  

Inside a doctor's office. A doctor is showing information about the liver. A woman with hepatitis B sits with her husband.

Aroha then followed up with her primary care doctor She discovered that she had chronic hepatitis B. Even though the ultrasound did not show any evidence of cirrhosis, her doctor ordered an imaging test (U/S, CT, MRI) to screen for liver cancer. Unfortunately, Aroha was diagnosed with early-stage liver cancer 

Inside a hospital room. A man and child visit a woman with hepatitis B in a hospital bed.

Fortunately, the cancer had not spread and did not infect nearby blood vessels. Her doctor suggested a partial hepatectomy to remove the tumor safely as the rest of the liver was still healthy. Aroha decided to adhere to her doctor’s advice and successfully underwent the surgery. She has taken some time off from work to focus on recuperating from the surgery and spending time with loved ones.  

 

 


The Challenge:
  1. Dismissal of Symptoms:
    • Aroha initially ignored the physical symptoms of liver cancer. It is true that signs and symptoms may not necessarily be present.
    • However, it is crucial to take care of one’s health and never ignore warning signs. Fatigue, unintended weight loss, and loss of appetite are a few of the symptoms of liver cancer. 
  2. Cancer without Cirrhosis: 
    • It is possible to get liver cancer without cirrhosis. Therefore, it is always important to screen for liver cancer if you have chronic hepatitis B infection. 
  3. Importance of Screening
    • Liver cancer screening is a highly effective method to detect malignant tumors and prevent cancer for those living with hepatitis B.
    • Early intervention increases the survival rate significantly and stops the cancer from spreading to other vital organs. 

What can you do?
  1. Get Help!
    • If you experience pain or discomfort of any kind, it is important to reach out for help. Set up an appointment with your doctor and discuss your concerns.
    • There is a good chance you might be misunderstanding an important health issue for side effects of stress or emotional burnout. Do not ignore your symptoms or feelings.  
  2. Get Screened!
    • Hepatitis B is a leading cause of liver cancer, most of the time it is because someone did not know they were infected with hepatitis B or were not managing their hepatitis B infection.
    • Everyone should be tested for hepatitis B to know their status. Ask your doctor for a hepatitis B screening today.  
  3. Stay on track!
    • If you have hepatitis B, it is critical to manage the progression of the virus in your liver. For this reason, it is important to go through liver cancer surveillance regularly. Discuss with your doctor if you are at high-risk and how often you should get screened.
    • It is recommended to get an ultrasound with blood work every 6 months to check how the virus is impacting the liver.  This includes the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood test to measure the levels of AFP in your blood as it may indicate the presence of cancer cells in your liver. This can also help detect any scarring or tumors. 

Don't ignore it until it goes away. Get help. Get screened for hepatitis B. Stay on track.


Resources and Acknowledgements:
  1. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html 
  2. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/treating/by-stage.html 
  3. https://www.hepb.org/research-and-programs/liver/prevention-of-liver-cancer/ 

Reactivation with Hepatitis B: Understanding Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies

Understanding the hepatitis B virus and the panel of blood tests needed to determine infection or immunity can be a stressful and challenging task. In simplest terms, “hepatitis” means liver inflammation and the hepatitis B virus can ultimately cause liver inflammation. The liver is an important organ in the human body and responsible for the removal of toxins and regulation of digestion (learn more about the function of the liver here). The hepatitis B virus can infect and disrupt critical functions of the liver in supporting your overall health. 

How the hepatitis B virus works 

In the case of the hepatitis B virus, the host is the liver cell. As the virus makes more copies of itself, the liver may become damaged, and sometimes it is unable to carry out its essential tasks to regulate metabolism, nutrients, and digestion. It is best to prevent hepatitis B infections when we can – and since antibodies are the best defense against the virus, the hepatitis B vaccine can be used to signals the body to make antibodies to fight the virus. The hepatitis B vaccine provides lifelong protection from the virus. However, this is only possible before infection with the virus. If somebody is already infected with the virus, antiviral therapy is used to control the virus and prevent liver damage – antiviral medications disrupt the life cycle of the virus by disabling viral receptors from binding to liver cells. 

Blood test panel to diagnose hepatitis B: 

The only way to tell someone’s hepatitis B status is through a panel of blood tests – the tests are all done at one time, and only one small tube of blood is needed. These tests are not included in routine testing, so it is important to ask your doctor to test you for hepatitis B or try to find a free screening event near you (http://www.hepbunited.org/). The panel consists of the following tests to determine your hepatitis B status: 

  1. HBsAg: 
    • This tests for the hepatitis B surface antigen in someone’s blood. The surface antigen is the protein that surrounds the virus and protects it from attack by the host. A positive surface antigen test indicates that the virus is present in the body. A “positive” or “reactive” result for HBsAg indicates that someone is infected with hepatitis B and can transmit the virus to others.  
  1. HBsAb 
    • This tests for the hepatitis B surface antibody in someone’s blood. The surface antibodies are produced by the immune system and can fight off the virus by attaching to the surface antigen protein. This test can detect the presence of these antibodies. Ideally this test will be ordered quantitatively (numerically). A “positive” surface antibody test (meaning numbers reading >10 IU/mL) means that a person has protection against the hepatitis B virus (either by vaccine or from a past exposure).  
  1. HBcAb (total) 
    • This is known as the hepatitis B core antibody test. The core antibody is produced by the immune system after infection with the virus. This test indicates an existing or past infection of the hepatitis B virus.  

 

To learn more about interpreting your test results, click here. 

Important things to know about Hepatitis B Core Antibody (HBcAb) 

Someone who has markers of past infection, particularly hepatitis B core antibody, can be at risk for hepatitis B reactivation. Reactivation can be triggered by immunosuppressive therapies and cause significant life-threatening challenges. If you test HBcAb+, please talk to your doctor about what that means, and make sure you notify all future health care providers. 

How is reactivation with HBV defined? 

Reactivation is defined as the sudden increase or reappearance of HBV (hepatitis B virus) DNA. When the virus invades the cell, it forms a covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) in the nucleus of infected cells referred to as hepatocytes. Because cccDNA is resistant to antiviral treatments, it is never removed from the cells. Therefore, even after recovery from a past infection, the cccDNA is present and may reactivate. It is not clearly understood why this may happen, but certain factors may increase the risk for reactivation.  

To learn more about the core, click here. 

What puts one at risk for reactivation? 

  1. Virologic factors such as high baseline HBV DNA, hepatitis B envelope antigen positivity (HBeAg), and chronic hepatitis B infection that persists for more than 6 months.
    • Detectable HBV DNA levels and detectable levels of HBsAG can increase the risk for HBRr (reactivation) 
    • Testing positive for HBeAg also increases the risk for reactivation 
  2. Co-infection with other viruses such as hepatitis C or hepatitis Delta 
  3. Older age 
  4. Male sex 
  5. Cirrhosis 
  6. An underlying condition requiring immunosuppressive therapies (rheumatoid arthritis, lymphoma, or solid tumors) 
    • Certain medications can increase the likelihood of reactivation by more than 10%.  
    • B-cell depleting agents such as rituximab, ofatumumab, doxorubicin, epirubicin, moderate or high-dose corticosteroid therapy lasting more than 4 weeks. 

How to prevent reactivation of hepatitis B 

Hepatitis B reactivation is a serious condition that can lead to health complications, Reactivation is avoidable if at-risk individuals are identified through screening. Current guidelines recommend that individuals at the highest risk (those receiving B-cell depleting therapies and cytotoxic regimens) should receive antiviral therapies as prophylaxis before beginning immunosuppressive therapy. These antiviral therapies should also be continued well beyond stopping the immunosuppressive therapies. Be sure to talk to your doctor to be sure you are not at risk for reactivation.  

References 

Hepatitis b virus reactivation: Risk factors and current management strategies.

Reactivation of hepatitis B virus: A review of Clinical Guidelines.

https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cld.883

https://www.hepb.org/prevention-and-diagnosis/diagnosis/understanding-your-test-results/

Can I Breastfeed While Living With Hepatitis B?

Every year, the first week of August celebrates World Breastfeeding week. World Breastfeeding week highlights the importance of breastfeeding and its benefits including nutrition, food security, child development, and the reduction of inequalities.  

Breastfeeding is a widespread practice found across cultures and borders. Considered to be the best food choice for babies, breast milk is full of essential nutrients to help babies fight off infections. It also lowers the risk of developing serious health problems like asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding also helps the mother bond with the child and supports the baby’s emotional health. Not only that, but mothers who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. It is encouraged for mothers to breastfeed their child exclusively for six months.  

However, it is important to consider that breastfeeding may not be the best option for everyone. There are many reasons why a woman may choose not to breastfeed her child including: health issues, lack of support, lack of time, short parental leave, and poor mental health. Formula can be a great, healthy, alternative to breastfeeding when breastfeeding is not possible.  

Globally, 300 million people are living with hepatitis B, and many do not know their status. Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver and damages healthy tissues and cells. This makes it more difficult for your liver to do its job of making sure your body is free of toxins and breaking down food so you can use it for energy. Globally, hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted from mother to child due to the blood exchange during childbirth, but may also spread through the following routes: 

  • Sharing needles or unclean objects like razors and toothbrushes 
  • Unsafe tattoo or piercing procedures 
  • Unprotected sex 

Learn more about transmission here!  

While some health issues can prevent women from breastfeeding their baby due to the fear of passing the disease or illness to their child, this is not the case with hepatitis B. Women living with hepatitis B can safely breastfeed their baby and are encouraged to breastfeed.  

Also, to prevent mother to child transmission of hepatitis B it is important to make sure the child receives the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine called the hepatitis B birth dose within the first 24 hours of birth. An extra step towards prevention can also be taken for mothers who have hepatitis B infection, which includes giving their baby the hepatitis B birth dose and hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) within the first 24 hours of birth. HBIG is not always available in every country and might be difficult to get. If it is not possible to get HBIG, be sure your child gets the hepatitis B birth dose within the first 24 hours of delivery to prevent transmission. HBIG is a shot that helps to protect your baby from developing hepatitis B by teaching the body to fight off the infection. The vaccine or birth dose is safe, effective, and provides a lifetime of protection to babies, so they do not get hepatitis B in the future. The birth dose is given in 3 doses and follows the schedule below:  

  • 1st dose- given right after birth but within 24 hours 
  • 2nd dose- given in at one month of age 
  • 3rd dose- given when the baby is 6 months old 

The infant hepatitis B vaccine schedule can vary depending on where you live – you can see the schedules here. 

You can learn more about the hepatitis B vaccine here!  

It should be noted that until a baby completes their hepatitis B vaccination series, if the nipples are chapped, cracked, or bleeding, it is best to avoid breastfeeding until the nipples are completely healed. Because hepatitis B is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact, there is a small risk of transmission to unvaccinated babies if the nipples are bleeding. During this time, it can be beneficial to seek guidance from a lactation consultant and switch to a different feeding method (formula or donor human milk).  

It is safe to breastfeed if you are living with hepatitis B, you will not transmit hepatitis B to your infant. If you still feel nervous about breastfeeding your baby, formula is the best alternative to breast milk.  

References 

https://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/  

https://www.hepb.org/treatment-and-management/pregnancy-and-hbv/breastfeeding/  

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23383145/  

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/maternal-or-infant-illnesses/hepatitis.html#:~:text=Is%20it%20safe%20for%20a,within%2012%20hours%20of%20birth. 

CHIPO Partner Highlight: Great Lakes Peace Centre

 The Coalition Against Hepatitis for People of African Origin (CHIPO) is a national community coalition that is co-founded and led by the Hepatitis B Foundation, comprised of organizations and individuals who are interested in addressing the high rates of hepatitis B infection among African communities in the US. Recently, CHIPO has started to expand its reach to communities in Africa and has welcomed new partners from the Continent. This month, in honor of Minority Health Month, we highlight a partnership between CHIPO and Great Lakes Peace Centre (GLPC) in Kasese, Uganda. CHIPO has recently provided GLPC with educational resources that are tailored for African communities, which GLPC is translating into local dialects and will use in a strategy to raise awareness and provide education about hepatitis B, primarily to rural women and youth in Kasese District. A recent interview with Bwambale Arafat, Head of Health and Policy Officer at GLPC, sheds light on some of the significant barriers that impede hepatitis B screening, prevention, and care in Uganda (and much of the African continent) and showcases some of the extraordinary work of GLPC on a host of issues, of which viral hepatitis is just one.

 CHIPO: Can you share a little bit about yourself? What is your connection to hepatitis?

Arafat: I work with the Great Lakes Peace Centre, which is a grassroots, youth-led organization, here in Kasese District, a rural area in Rwenzori region, western Uganda (near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 400 kilometers from the capital city of Kampala). Most of our work with hepatitis B is focused on raising awareness and providing education about the virus to women and youth in the area, who are the most important people to reach. We also engage in a lot of advocacy initiatives, as well as efforts to lower stigma and discrimination.

My personal connection to hepatitis B is the diagnosis of my uncle with hepatitis B and liver cancer and his death shortly thereafter. There was widespread misconception that he had been bewitched and poisoned by relatives. I have been working to try to dispel some of these myths and provide accurate information ever since. In 2021, I was honored as a World Hepatitis Alliance champion for hepatitis outreach work during COVID-19. I and GLPC are deeply committed to the cause of hepatitis B elimination by the year 2030.

CHIPO: Congratulations on the well-deserved honor! Can you share a bit about the work and goals of your organization?

Arafat: Due to its proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kasese feels the effects of war and conflict acutely, and the area is quite fragile. Peace and Conflict Resolution is the first of three priority areas for GLPC and is driven forward by the efforts and demographic dividends of young people. Health Promotion and Public Policy is the second priority area, which encompasses awareness and education about hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis prevention, screening, and treatment, as well as nutrition assessments, counseling, and support, especially for mothers of children under five years of age. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene is another topic of top concern, and initiatives in this sector included a hand-washing campaign for COVID-19. The last focus area under the Health Promotion umbrella is adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and especially promotion of education equity for menstruating young women and ending of stigma and discrimination around this, thus keeping young women in school for longer. Social empowerment happens through education, and people can donate to keep girls in school with financial support. The third organizational priority is to focus on climate change – GLPC distributes solar panels through public and private partnerships, as a great step toward sustainability and protecting the planet we share.

 CHIPO: What are some of the biggest barriers to hepatitis screening, prevention, and care in your community?

Arafat: As I mentioned above, the widespread presence of myths and misconceptions about hepatitis B, especially about transmission, is one of the biggest culprits in perpetuating the stigma and discrimination that still dominate the hepatitis B conversation and presents one of the biggest challenges to increasing screening and vaccination. Some ways that we are working to dispel some of these misconceptions are through our social media platforms, which all have huge followings by younger people. However, attitudes are very slow to change, and this is why the involvement of religious and community leaders in spreading accurate information and shifting the narrative around viral hepatitis is so important, and why personal testimonials and connections with people who are living with hepatitis B hold such power.

Other challenges to screening, prevention, management, and treatment of hepatitis B in Kasese include the enormous out-of-pocket costs of diagnosis and testing; the persistent lack of awareness among the general population – primarily lack of information, education, and communication; the lack of logistics and supplies for things like test kits and cold chain storage for vaccines; and the long distances and mountainous topography that make access to health facilities in larger cities difficult. Additionally, funding and resources from the government and other stakeholders remain inadequate, making it difficult to ensure that services will be available when they are needed. The Minister of Health and government of Uganda have created infrastructure to help with vaccination (they have provided 1 million USD for this reason), have recommended universal adult vaccination, and have also waived fees for viral load investigation. However, things like ultrasound scans, complete blood count panels, and other tests to determine when someone would need treatment for hepatitis are not subsidized. The government could also do a great deal more in terms of increasing awareness, investing money into management and care, prioritizing the birth dose of the vaccine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, and addressing the stigma and discrimination so many living with hepatitis B routinely face.

Many infants also continue to be delivered by traditional birth attendants, who are not trained in preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, and knowledge among community health workers in general is very low. There is also inadequate data and surveillance of the disease, and no records of screening, vaccination, or care are kept in the Health Management and Information System. There is a lack of clear guidelines around testing for the medical community and a lack of materials that can help to raise awareness and combat stigma.

We also really need to integrate hepatitis services into those that exist for HIV/AIDS. Machines that are used to test for HIV/AIDS can be recalibrated to also test for hepatitis. Electronic Health Records can be upgraded to include hepatitis B status. As awareness grows, patients can also hold health workers accountable for hepatitis testing, as they do now for HIV and syphilis. This conversation needs to start with the people themselves.

 CHIPO: How are you planning to use CHIPO’s materials and resources over the next year?

Arafat: We have a saying in Kasese: “When you talk in a foreign language, you talk to people’s heads. When you speak in their language, you speak to their hearts.” Our first priority is to translate CHIPO’s flip charts, takeaway cards, and guides for health educators into our local dialects of Lhukonzo and Runyakitara, in order to reach as many community members and stakeholders as possible. We will host four community educational events using the materials and in these events, will focus on hepatitis B overview, causes and prevention, common myths and misconceptions, and unmet needs in this area. These sessions will be moderated by NoHep Champions and Hepatitis Ambassadors, so that the community can hear from people with direct experiences of the disease and their voices can be amplified.

Additionally, we will host NoHep Champion Table Talks, which are informal discussions that will consist of young people living with HBV and pregnant women, who will share stories and build community. These talks will touch upon how people are doing physically, as well as with handling stigma, and will identify needed services, insights which can help to determine future programming and practices. These talks will also emphasize that no one is alone, and that hepatitis B is not a death sentence, but that people with HBV can live long and healthy lives. We will also convene community barazas (gatherings) with local leaders, including social workers, health workers, village health teams, hepatitis ambassadors, local council, and cultural, community, and religious leaders to conduct trainings on delivery of the educational materials. These will provide an opportunity to educate and invite open discussion. We will also hold continuing education courses on hepatitis B for healthcare professionals at health facilities, including community health workers, village health teams, and para-social workers. Finally, we are planning to compose a radio jingle related to hepatitis B that will be heard around the district.

Only 1 in 10 people in Kasese know their hepatitis B status. These materials can go a long way in changing that.

CHIPO: Thank you so much for your valuable insights and for all of the work you are doing! Do you have any final thoughts or messages that you would like to share?

Arafat: I would just like to mention our No Hep Mamas campaign, which we are also implementing for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B. We are working to bring this campaign to more health facilities, and share this information in prenatal care settings, as stopping the cycle of transmission is truly the best way to eliminate hepatitis B.

CHIPO: Thank you so much again for your time today, Arafat, and we look forward to more inspiring work from you in the future!

Arafat: Thank you very much!

Happy Human Rights Day: Hepatitis B and Human Rights

Human Rights and Hepatitis B  

Every year on December 10th, we celebrate Human Rights Day! This year’s theme is “Equality – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights.” This theme emphasizes equality, inclusion, and non-discrimination to further the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.   

So how does this year’s theme relate to hepatitis B? 

Hepatitis B is the most common liver infection in the world. Almost 300 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B, yet there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding the disease which perpetuates stigma, discrimination, inequality, and exclusion.  

More commonly, misconceptions surround the transmission of hepatitis B. Sometimes people think that hepatitis B can be spread through casual contact, through sharing food, through dirty environments – others feel that people with hepatitis B must have done something “bad” to get the virus. These perceptions can be damaging to an individual who is living with hepatitis B because it can create not only social stigma but self-stigma.  

A person living with hepatitis B might feel like they cannot disclose their status or live freely because of the way people or institutions will treat them. This fear of exclusivity also might create hesitation for people to get tested which could potentially delay treatment for people who might need it to prevent hepatitis B from progressing to something more serious like cirrhosis, fibrosis, or liver cancer.  

In some cultures, hepatitis B is viewed as a punishment from a supernatural force. People living with hepatitis B who believe this might feel a burden and shame and will not share their status. This belief also perpetuates hesitation for people to access testing and treatment. 

However, hepatitis B is NOT transmitted casually, no one is to blame for hepatitis B, and people who have hepatitis B deserve the same opportunities to live fulfilling lives – at work, at home, and in the community.  

Are You Feeling Isolated? 

If you are feeling isolated from your community, family, other individuals, etc., there are support groups you can join! Hep B Community is a global online support group dedicated to connecting people affected by hepatitis B with one another and with verified experts in the field, who provide trustworthy and accurate advice. 

On this day let’s celebrate Human Rights Day and take action to improve equality, inclusivity, and non-discrimination. Here are some resources: 

Did you know the Hepatitis B Foundation has a Discrimination Registry? 

The Hepatitis B Foundation is working to document discrimination related to hepatitis B through its Hepatitis B Discrimination Registry. If you experienced hepatitis B discrimination, you can take action and report it through the Registry Survey 

The Hepatitis B Foundation also has a page dedicated for people experiencing discrimination in the United States. Check out what to do if you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, military, and schools and institutions 

If you are experiencing discrimination and would like some advice email discrimination@hepb.org  

 

Author: Evangeline Wang

Questions: info@hepb.org

August is National Immunization Awareness Month!

As August wraps up National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This month we raise awareness to highlight the importance of vaccination. In the era of COVID-19, we are shown how effective and protective vaccines are. During NIAM, we encourage you to talk to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional to ensure you and your family are protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine vaccination, especially the hepatitis B vaccination!

What is Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection in the world. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus that attacks and injures the liver. Two billion people (or 1 in 3) have been infected and about 300 million people are living with a chronic hepatitis B infection. Each year around 820,000 people die from liver disease caused by hepatitis B despite the fact that it is preventable and treatable. In the United States, 2.4 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B!

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids. It can be passed to others through direct contact with blood, unprotected sex, unsterilized or contaminated needles, and from an infected woman to her newborn during pregnancy or childbirth.

Hepatitis B is a “silent epidemic” because most people do not have symptoms when they are newly infected or chronically infected. Thus, they can unknowingly spread the virus to others and continue the silent spread of hepatitis B. For people who are chronically infected but don’t have any symptoms, their liver is still being silently damaged which can develop into serious liver disease such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Preventing Hepatitis B  

It takes only 2 to 3 shots to protect yourself and your loved ones against hepatitis B for a lifetime.

The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that is recommended for all infants at birth and for children up to 18 years. The hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for adults living with diabetes and those at high risk for infection due to their jobs, lifestyle, living situations, or country of birth. Since everyone is at some risk, all adults should seriously consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine for lifetime protection against a preventable chronic liver disease.

The hepatitis B vaccine is also known as the first “anti-cancer” vaccine because it prevents hepatitis B, the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide.

You cannot get hepatitis B from the vaccine. All hepatitis B vaccines that have been used since 1986 are made synthetically – meaning the hepatitis B vaccines do not contain any blood products. Learn more.

Vaccine Schedule

How to Get Vaccinated

If you are unsure of your hepatitis B vaccination status, ask your healthcare provider for a simple blood test!

If you have not been vaccinated – ask your healthcare provider for the simple and effective vaccine! They are generally available at your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or local health clinic. If you are United States-based the Center for Disease Control maintains a database of locations that offer the hepatitis B vaccine. You can search for locations within the U.S!

Author: Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

Why You Should Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine

During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been much controversy over vaccines. Although there has always been an anti-vaccine movement, it has grown during the pandemic. However, despite all of that, it is highly recommended that people who are at risk get the hepatitis B vaccine. Almost 300 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis B and almost 800,000 people die every year due to hepatitis B complications. In fact, hepatitis B is the greatest risk factor for developing liver cancer (HCC). The hepatitis B vaccine is simple and effective. It requires either 2 or 3 shots over a few months. It is one of the most-administered vaccines worldwide, and one of the safest, with few side effects!

There are many groups that may need the vaccine. These include but are not limited to: 

  • All infants, beginning at birth
  • All children aged <19 years who have not been vaccinated previously
  • Susceptible sexual partners of hepatitis B-positive persons
  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (e.g., >one sex partner during the previous six months)
  • Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Injection drug users
  • Susceptible household contacts of hepatitis B-positive persons
  • Healthcare and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood
  • Persons with end-stage renal disease, including pre-dialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
  • Travelers to and families adopting from countries where hepatitis B is common (e.g. Asia, Africa, South America, Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East)
  • Persons with chronic liver disease, other than hepatitis B (e.g. cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, etc.)
  • Persons with hepatitis C infection
  • Persons with HIV infection
  • Adults with diabetes aged 19 through 59 years (clinicians can decide whether or not to vaccinate their diabetic patients ≥60 years)

Now, this is a large list of people who might need the vaccine, but how hard is it to receive one? It is one of the easiest vaccines to get. Most hospitals carry the vaccine, and in the UK, hospitals are required to give the vaccine to at-risk groups. In the United States, the Affordable Care Act should cover preventive services; so the hepatitis B vaccine should be mostly available free of cost.

The Hepatitis B Foundation recommends everyone who is at risk or may in the future be at risk receive the vaccine. It is a smooth and seamless process that can prevent HBV, liver cancer, and let you live a long and healthy life. If you are not vaccinated for hepatitis B, ask your doctor or primary care provider for the vaccination! 

If you are unsure of your hepatitis B status, ask your doctor or primary care provider to become tested! The hepatitis B test is super simple – it only requires one blood sample. Your doctor should order the “hepatitis B panel” which includes different tests. Read more hepatitis B testing here!

 

Sources –https://www.goodrx.com/hepatitis-a-and-hepatitis-b-vaccine/what-is

Author: Simeon Paek, Intern

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

Liver Cancer Among Men

June is Men’s Health Month. This month we bring awareness to preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. In 2020, The World Health Organization found that liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths with 830,000 deaths.1 Liver cancer occurs more often in men than in women with it being the 5th most commonly occurring cancer in men and the 9th most commonly occurring cancer in women.2

There are two main types of liver cancers, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) which accounts for about 75% of liver cancer cases, and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma which accounts for 12-15% of cases. Liver cancer especially impacts Asian countries like Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and China. Hepatitis B is the leading cause of HCC globally. Of the 300 million individuals living with a chronic hepatitis B diagnosis, about 25% will develop HCC.3

Risk Factors

HCC affects men with an incidence 2x-4x higher than women due to differences in behavioral risk factors and biological factors.3 Research has found men were less likely to undergo HCC screening and more likely to smoke.  Additionally, studies have shown alcohol is a major risk factor for HCC. In the United States, HCC associated with alcohol is higher among men than in women at 27.8% and 15.4% respectively.3

Biologically, there is evidence estrogen (a female hormone) decreases IL-6 mediated hepatic inflammation and viral production.3 Studies have demonstrated IL-6 may promote virus survival and/or exacerbation of the disease.4 In the context of hepatitis B, men are at an increased risk for HCC as they do not produce estrogen which would help decrease the risk of IL-6, in turn, promoting viral survival.

Prevention

The great news is that HCC can be prevented by preventing hepatitis B. There is a safe and effective vaccine that can be completed in either 2 or 3 doses over a span of 3 months. Ask your healthcare provider for the hepatitis B vaccine series.

If you are unsure of your hepatitis B status, you can get tested! Ask your healthcare provider for the “Hepatitis B Panel” – it should include 3 parts. The panel is super simple and only requires one sample of blood.  If you are of Asian descent and male, it is especially important for you to get tested as liver cancer disproportionately impacts individuals from Asian countries and men.

If you have chronic hepatitis B, make sure your doctor screens you regularly for liver cancer. Typically done with a combination of blood tests and imaging, liver cancer screening can help detect HCC early when it is still curable.

As we wrap up June and Men’s Health Month, you are encouraged to get vaccinated and tested for hepatitis B. Take control of your health, and don’t wait!

References

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer
  2. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/liver-cancer-statistics/
  3. Wu EM, Wong LL, Hernandez BY, et al. Gender differences in hepatocellular cancer: disparities in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease/steatohepatitis and liver transplantation. Hepatoma Res. 2018;4:66. doi:10.20517/2394-5079.2018.87
  4. Velazquez-Salinas L, Verdugo-Rodriguez A, Rodriguez LL, Borca MV. The Role of Interleukin 6 During Viral Infections. Front Microbiol. 2019;10:1057. Published 2019 May 10. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.01057

 

Author: Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org

 

Happy Pride Month – HIV/HBV Co-Infection

 

June is Pride Month in the United States! This month we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. This blog post will discuss HIV/HBV coinfection in LGBTQ+ individuals and how to prevent both viruses.

HIV/HBV Co-Infection

Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ individuals, mostly gay and bisexual men. In the United States, approximately 69% of the 37,968 new HIV cases were among gay and bisexual men in 2018. HIV can also impact lesbian women, although the infection rate among this community is lower. There is also very limited current data out about lesbian and bisexual women and the burden of HIV. However, HIV can be transmitted between women who have sex with women through sex toys and injection drug use. The CDC reports 1 million people have identified as transgender in the United States, and 2% of those individuals are affected by HIV.

Approximately 5-20% of the HIV-infected population worldwide is also living with hepatitis B. These rates vary among different regions and at-risk populations based on modes of transmission. This figure may approach 20% in Southeast Asia, and 5% in North America and Western Europe. In the U.S., Western Europe, and Australia, the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B was reported to be 5%-14% among HIV-positive individuals.

Since both HIV and the hepatitis B virus share similar transmission routes, it is not surprising that there is a high frequency of coinfection. Sexual activity and/or injection drug use are the most common routes of transmission of the hepatitis B virus among those also infected with HIV.

Prevention

You can easily prevent hepatitis B with a safe and effective vaccine. The vaccine comes in either 2 or 3 doses, given over a span of 6 months. Learn more about the vaccine dose schedule here!

If you are not vaccinated for hepatitis B, ask your doctor or primary care provider for the vaccination! Check out this list of LGBTQ+ friendly providers.

If you are unsure of your hepatitis B status, ask your doctor or primary care provider to become tested! The hepatitis B test is super simple – it only requires one blood sample. Your doctor should order the “hepatitis B panel” which includes different tests. Read more hepatitis B testing here!

You can lower your risk of acquiring HIV by using PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP is a daily medication you can take to prevent HIV. Just make sure you are tested for hepatitis B before starting PrEP. Read more about PrEP here!

 

Author: Evangeline Wang

Contact Information: info@hepb.org