May 14, 2006
Written by C.N.
For whatever reasons, we don’t hear much about the health and well-being of Asian Americans much. Perhaps there is an impression that we are somehow more immune or less likely to get most diseases. However, new data show that among east Asian immigrants in new York City, one out of seven carries the hepatitis B virus:
The condition puts them at far greater risk than other Americans for deadly diseases like liver cancer and cirrhosis. Most of the people tested had no idea that they were infected, a fact that frustrates doctors who know that with proper screening and treatment, the disease can be controlled, if not cured. But three-quarters of the people in the study had no health insurance, and even those who did had trouble getting coverage for screening.
The study, led by researchers at New York University School of Medicine, found that 15 percent of east Asians in New York — as many as 100,000 people — are chronic hepatitis carriers, with the rate highest among immigrants from China. That infection rate is 35 times the rate found in the general population. The New York State cancer registry shows rates of liver cancer among Asian-Americans 6 to 10 times as high as for whites.
Because Hepatitis B is endemic in many Asian countries, growth in the number of Asian immigrants in New York and across the country has made the disease a broad, expensive, emerging health problem.
I thank the New York Times for helping to publicize this issue and I urge all Asian Americans, especially east Asian immigrants, to get tested as soon as possible. For a listing of free and confidential testing clinics in the New York City area, visit the NYC Dept. of Health website.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "East Asians at Risk for Hepatitis" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/05/east-asians-at-risk-for-hepatitis/> ().
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