Universal childhood vaccination programs since the 1980s have successfully reduced new hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections in endemic countries by increasing immunity and protection against HBV infection. However, approximately one-third of the world’s population has been infected and most do not know their status. An estimated 257 million people world-wide have chronic HBV infection, and may live without symptoms for decades before developing serious liver complications.
For some individuals, HBV remains inactive in the liver, but may reactivate to cause liver damage. Reactivation occurs if the immune system becomes weakened by medications commonly used to treat cancer and certain chronic diseases. HBV screening is essential to identify and counsel infected individuals about risks to their health.
At Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, over 25,000 adults, mostly foreign-born and from China, were screened with three blood tests to detect chronic or prior infection, and immunity status. The Health Center found the following trends:
- Over half of all adults screened for HBV had either chronic (13%) or prior (38%) HBV infection.
- Adults who lived with someone with chronic HBV had the highest rates of infection: 21% with chronic HBV and 49% with prior HBV infection.
- Foreign-born adults were about 7 times more likely to have chronic or prior HBV infection compared to U.S. born adults (55% vs. 8%).
- Adults born before 1980 were significantly more likely to have chronic or prior HBV infection compared to adults born after 1980 (59% vs. 38%)
To celebrate World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2017 and raise awareness about the importance of HBV screening in our community, the Health Center’s Hepatitis B Program and Health Education Department partnered with renowned NYC-based comic book writer, Amy Chu, and Chinatown-raised illustrator, Louie Chin, to create, “The Test”, a comic book about a nurse practitioner who encourages members of her community to get tested for HBV. The story follows each character as they receive and interpret their test results.
The Health Center hopes this fun and new visual educational material will engage readers of all ages to better understand HBV screening results and the importance of getting their family and community members tested. Download your digital copy here.
Development of this material is made possible with a grant funded by Miranda Wong Tang.