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Bristol-Myers Squibb hosts liver awareness reception

February 10
22:55 2011

(From left to right) Dr. Hong Tang, Dr. Aijaz Ahmed, Dr. Stephen Lee, Dr. Huy Trinh, Dr. Christopher Wong

PALO ALTO: Bristol-Myers Squibb, a global pharmaceutical company, hosted a Liver Awareness reception at the Sheraton Hotel in Palo Alto featuring California State Assembly Woman Fiona Ma, Katy Wong, and several in-language physicians to discuss chronic Hepatitis B in the Asian-American community. Well-Known Stanford University physician, Aijaz Ahmed, M.D. joined other key speakers, Stephen Lee, M.D., Chris Wong, M.D., Huy Trinh, M.D., along with Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Host, Hong Tang, M.D.

The purpose of this event was to help educate the Asian American community about the potential health impact of chronic hepatitis B, to destigmatize the disease, and clarify existing misconceptions.

Dr. Ahmed, Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Director, Adult Liver Transplant Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine told India Post, “Hepatitis B most significantly impacts people of Asian descent and people coming from India or those born in India should at least get screened.”

Dr. Ahmed added that “the majority of the Indian population does not get the standard of care. There is either high risk behavior, or blood donation, dialysis, and also blood contamination issues in India and the general population rarely get tested.” Even for those entering the U.S. the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends screening, but does not require it as compared to HIV screening which is mandated.

Screenings are recommended once immigrants or visitors enter the U.S. since 78% of all cases occur in Asia, 16% of all cases occur in Africa, and 6% of all cases occur in South America, Europe, North America and Oceania combined. (Blood Safety Surveillance and Health Care Acquired Infections Division, Health Canada)
Among the Asian population, Pacific Islanders and the Indian Subcontinent, approximately 50% of the population has had hepatitis B. The global prevalence is 300 to 400 million people in the world. “There are approximately 6 billion people in the world and out of that number, 2 billion or one third of the world’s population has seen Hepatitis B and recovered from it,” said, Dr. Ahmed. Of that 6 billion, 400 million are chronically affected by an active infection.

In the United States, approximately 1.25 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B, over half are of Asian descent, and an estimated one in ten Asian Americans is chronically infected with Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is one of the most common forms of hepatitis, a group of serious diseases that cause inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is caused by a virus that affects the liver. Adults who get hepatitis B usually recover. However, most infants infected at birth become chronic carriers i.e. they carry the virus for many years and can spread the infection to others.

Hepatitis B can be hard to diagnose or can be easily misdiagnosed because symptoms can be vague or there may be no symptoms in some people or symptoms can be similar to other diseases. It can result in complications of the liver, such as cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, and an increased risk of developing liver cancer. Early symptoms may include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle aches and jaundice or other symptoms such as pain in the upper right abdomen (due to an inflamed liver).

There is no cure for hepatitis B. Treatment includes rest, ensuring good nutrition, and antiviral medications in some cases. For serious cases in which liver damage or liver failure has occurred, hospitalization may be necessary. Treatment in the hospital may include medications and other diagnostic testing and liver transplant.

Hepatitis B is spread but one cannot get hepatitis B from hugging someone, holding hands, having someone sneeze or cough on you, breastfeeding your baby, eating food or drinking water or casual contact (such as a social or office setting).

Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood or fluids contaminated with blood. That means blood transfusions with contaminated blood, tattoos, from infected mothers to infants, body piercing, needle sticks, IV drugs with contaminated needles, manicures that made you bleed (instruments are not sterilized), sharing razors, toothbrushes, anything that could pass infected blood to your blood such as undergoing dialysis for kidney disease.

Even doing IV drugs once could have given you the virus or sharing straws with someone that had nasal sores or bleeding.

Kavita Arora
India Post News Service
Kavita Arora is Anchor & Co-Producer of Sitaarre TV

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