Ma urges hepatitis B awareness

Fiona Ma did not learn she had chronic hepatitis B until she tried to give blood at the age of 22. Now 40, the member of the Board of Supervisors is hoping her story will encourage other Asian Americans, who are at greater risk, to get tested for the deadly disease.

While only 3 percent of the nation's population has been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans make up more than half of these cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In San Francisco, nearly 30 percent of the population is of Asian descent, which means thousands of residents are likely to be chronic carriers.

“This is an issue near and dear to my heart, because I myself am a hep B carrier,” said Ma, speaking at a press conference called Friday to promote awareness of the disease among San Francisco's Asian Pacific community.

Ma noted that her brother, who is only two years younger than she, is also a hepatitis B carrier, but her sister, who is 16 years younger, is not. That's likely because a hepatitis B vaccine became available in 1982, leading to routine vaccination of newborns.

Hepatitis B, caused by a virus that attacks the liver, occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person that is not infected. A mother can transmit it to her baby during birth. It can also be spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom and by sharing needles, among other means of transmission.

The children of immigrants from areas with high rates of infection, such as China, are at high risk for contracting the disease. Without vaccination, 90 percent of infants infected at birth develop a long lasting, chronic infection.

Often called the “silent disease” because about 30 percent of those infected have no signs or symptoms, in the United States, about 1.25 million people have chronic hepatitis B. Of those infected, 5,000 die from hepatitis B and hepatitis B-related liver complications each year.

Dr. Mitch Katz, San Francisco's director of public health, called hepatitis B a “deadly but preventable disease” and encouraged The City's Asian Pacific community to get tested and vaccinated, if needed.

Currently, all newborns in San Francisco are automatically vaccinated against hepatitis B. The City also spends approximately $200,000 a year to provide about 8,000 adult hepatitis vaccines to local public health centers and private nonprofit organizations at no charge.

For information on free or low-cost hepatitis testing and vaccination sites in San Francisco, call 415-554-2844. Free screenings will also be offered at the Asian American Heritage Celebration in San Francisco's Sunset District, on May 20.

beslinger@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco leaders argue that plans to develop housing in the region’s transit-heavy urban areas are at odds with goals to increase equity for people of color.
SF officials fear regional housing strategy could increase displacement of people of color

Equity and climate goals at odds in plan that concentrates development in transit-rich urban areas

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority cut most of its bus service last year due to the pandemic, and has been slow to bring it back due to budget concerns and low ridership. (Samantha Laurey/ Special to S.F. Examiner)
Supes urge SFMTA to expedite restoration of Muni lines

Resolution emphasizes focus on seniors, individuals with disabilities and community routes

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott listens at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Will the Biden Administration help SF speed up police reform?

City has struggled to implement changes without federal oversight

Assemblymember David Chiu introduced a bill that would assist formerly incarcerated who are at risk of homelessness. <ins>(Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
David Chiu: Closing 5 California prisons would free up money to house former inmates

By Hannah Wiley The Sacramento Bee A California Democrat wants to keep… Continue reading

Lowell High School (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Students, families call for culture shift at Lowell after racist incident

District to explore changes including possible revision of admissions policy

Most Read