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National Hepatitis Testing Day. Why Should I Get Tested?

Saturday, May 19th is the first National Hepatitis Testing Day.  Viral hepatitis partners will be working together with local health departments and other community partners in to bring viral hepatitis testing events to a neighborhood near you. Hep B United Philadelphia and the Hepatitis B Foundation and other partners will be holding screening events in downtown Philly.

Why is hepatitis testing necessary? Hepatitis B is largely asymptomatic – until it is too late, or caught with blood donation screening, or lab work.  There are clearly defined risk factors for hepatitis B, or groups that are at greater risk, but there are also less clearly defined risks, or just bad luck. Think about this list and ask yourself if you might want to think about getting tested. If you are young, or when you were younger, was your behavior ever wild or impulsive? Are you a little older and you’re still a little impulsive, or occasionally wild? Did you ever get drunk, or do drugs – even once, or perhaps “lose a night”? Did you have unprotected sex, or do you have multiple partners? If you are monogamous, are you sure your SO is equally monogamous? Does a friend or family member possibly have a known or even an unknown infection? Maybe they know, but they aren’t telling you. Do you like traveling the world?  Outside of the U.S. there are some really wonderful places that have an extremely high HBV prevalence. Roughly 40% of Americans have tattoos, or various piercings. Did you check out the shop- not for the artistry, but for infection control practices before you got your tatt? Ever borrowed a razor or nail clippers or other personal hygiene tools from someone else? How about the nail salon? Do enjoy a good pedicure? Things happen. People are different, they have different lifestyle choices. People make mistakes. They change. Things happen.

Sometimes I take calls from people that call HBF’s consult line. In the last couple of weeks I have spoken to a few consults that do not necessarily fit the standard at-risk profile for hepatitis B. One was an older, senior citizen, who is a regular blood donor, but just recently tested positive for hepatitis B during her most recent donation. Because her blood was being regularly screened, it appears clear that she has an acute case of hepatitis B. She can’t figure out how in the world it happened. She is not having sex, nor is she an injecting drug user. She lives in a small town, and does not have any family from other parts of the world where there is a high prevalence of HBV such as Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Central America. She is dumbfounded by this diagnosis.

Another consult was concerned about his wife who had also contracted an acute case of hepatitis B. They’re also a little older and in a monogamous, married relationship. After speaking with him, we determined she likely contracted her infection through her job. She works as a cleaning woman. Although most people are not symptomatic, this woman was quite symptomatic for HBV and required close monitoring. After discussing her case with her husband, I recommended that he also be tested, though he was sure he could not be infected since he had no symptoms. He called me last week to tell that he was in fact, acutely infected. He is stunned.

I am not here to judge anyone’s apparent risks or lack of risks.  I am only here to answer questions about their hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis B is not casually transmitted, but it is one-tenacious virus that can effectively be transmitted through infected blood and body fluids.

Fortunately, there is a safe and effective 3-shot vaccine series to protect us against hepatitis B. However, the vaccine doesn’t work if you are already infected.  Remember, HBV does not discriminate. B sure. B tested. If you are do not have HBV, then give yourself lifelong protection with the hepatitis B vaccine. If you find you do have hepatitis B, talk to your doctor about further testing. Don’t forget to check out those free, confidential hepatitis screenings this weekend!

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month! What are you or your organization doing to help educate and raise HBV awareness in your community? Will you be holding viral hepatitis screening events, or other events?

The CDC has launched the “Know More Hepatitis Campaign”, which is an educational initiative striving to educate the public about viral hepatitis and encourage screening. They have designated May 19th as the first Hepatitis Testing Day. Organizations around the country will be providing viral hepatitis screening. Many will be focusing on at-risk populations. This is a great opportunity to get tested to be sure of your HBV or HCV status. Talk to the members of the organizations running the screening to learn more about these diseases, and what you can do to get involved.  Don’t forget to register your viral hepatitis screening event with the CDC, or check out screening events in your area.

The Hepatitis B Foundation and Hep B United Philadelphia have a couple of big activities planned for Hepatitis Awareness Month. On Friday, May 18th, we will be having our “B A Hero” Photo Flash mob event in Love Park in downtown Philadelphia. Everyone is excited about the event.  Some of the students have created a Hep B Rap video to get everyone psyched for the event! We also have some fabulous guests slated to make an appearance. If you’re downtown that day be sure to join us! If you’re nowhere near Philly, consider organizing your own Flash Mob! Its lots of fun and a great opportunity to raise HBV awareness with a splash!

Hep B United Philadelphia will also be offering free HBV screening at the Asian Festival on Saturday, May 19th from 12pm-3pm at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Asian Pacific Heritage Festival, at Franklin Square Park in Philly.  Folks that are screened will get a free Hepatitis B tote bag and will be entered into a raffle to win a free Kindle! Counseling will be available in Chinese, English and Korean. Educational literature will be available in Chinese Vietnamese, Korean, Lao, Khmer, and Indonesian. Look for Hep B United Philly’s tent in the health fair section, along with blood pressure, glucose and vision screening. It’s going to be a great event!

The Hepatitis B Foundation will be hosting the B Informed Parent Conference in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday, May 19th. This will be an incredible opportunity for parents of kids with hepatitis B to meet with leading pediatric experts in the field that address both medical issues and the personal challenges of parenting a child with hepatitis B. It is also a wonderful opportunity for parents to meet face-to-face with other families facing similar challenges.  Be sure to check out the detailed program agenda, and if you are a family with a child living with HBV, or know of a family living with HBV, please encourage them to attend this unique event. Pre-registration is required, though there is no charge for the event. And if that’s not enough, here are 10 reasons you need to get yourself to Philly for this event…

So let us know what you are up to for Hepatitis Awareness Month!  If you’re not already part of an organization, lend a hand and volunteer at a screening in your community. If you speak another language, volunteer your translation services, or hand out pamphlets. Make a commitment to start your own organization, or join an organization. Don’t feel like getting out there? Become an at-home HBV advocate and use social media channels such as twitter or Facebook and support viral hepatitis efforts right from home, or your phone. The opportunities are endless!

United and Strong…

I have the best job in the world. I get to walk all around Philadelphia, meet people, and talk with them to find win-win collaboration opportunities. Creativity and innovation are required at all times for adaptations to the ever-changing environment in a diverse and bustling city. My schedule is rarely the same from one week to another—productive late night meetings and well-attended weekend health fairs make me happy. I am never bored.

Community work on the local level is challenging, yet extremely rewarding. This is the level where the lack of resources can be felt most significantly. This is also the level where the fruit of our efforts are the most direct and observable. Being the program manager for Philadelphia’s local hepatitis B coalition, driving day-to-day progress to accomplish the coalition partners’ common goals, has caused me to place high value on partnership and collaboration. There is a Chinese idiom that says “three ignorant cobblers together exceed a Zhuge Liang”. Zhuge Liang was a genius war strategist during the Three Kingdom era at the turn of the 2nd Century. The idiom emphasizes the importance of collective wisdom. Since our community partners are smart and savvy, and could never be described as “ignorant cobblers”, our collective wisdom and effort have achieved great things and made significant impacts in the Philadelphia community—even with the limited resources available to us.

Imagine my excitement when the individual local grassroots hep B campaigns from around the U.S. came together and decided to form a national coalition—Hep B United (the Philadelphia campaign becomes Hep B United Philadelphia). Having a formal national coalition will help local campaigns to become more versatile and more effective, both collectively and individually. Having a national coalition means there will be a unified body of leaders that are connected to the local efforts. They will be able to work with federal and national partners without losing touch with the local campaigns. A unified national presence and identity will also strengthen the ongoing advocacy work to raise awareness among policy makers. Within the national coalition, resource sharing will become more efficient, preventing redundancy or duplication. The quality of our communication across the nation will also improve due to a stronger infrastructure. The local campaigns will enjoy elevated profile thanks to the national-local one-two punch of increased exposure. Ultimately, all of these benefits will help us better serve our communities.

The creation of this national coalition has been in the works for months. The Hepatitis B Foundation is one of the main leaders, and has been faithfully moving the progress along throughout the whole process. As of last week, the official logo for the coalition was voted on and approved. And in the upcoming weeks, each local campaign will gradually update their materials, online and printed, in alignment with the national campaign. While getting a new name is certainly a fresh new beginning, we continue to work with the same integrity and diligence that will always be our identity.

Hep B United. Together, we cannot fail.

Kuan-Lung Daniel Chen, MPH, CPH

Public Health Program Manager

Hepatitis B Foundation