Gov names August
Hepatitis B Awareness
Gov. Linda Lingle has proclaimed August Hepatitis B Awareness Month to alert residents and doctors to the disease, which can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis.
A Hawaii Jade Ribbon Campaign has been organized to locate an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 residents who have hepatitis B and do not know it. Free testing will be provided.
Hawaii's hepatitis B chronic carrier rate of about 1 to 3 percent is about five times greater than the mainland, according to the state Health Department.
Hepatitis B is transmitted by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person, by sharing items such as needles, toothbrushes or nail clippers or by unprotected sex with an infected person.
State Health Director Chiyome Fukino said: "Routine tests don't detect hepatitis B. We are hopeful that the Jade Ribbon Campaign will educate doctors to specifically look for hepatitis B and educate patients, particularly those at high risk, to ask for the test."
Presentations on the disease will be made at the Chinese, Filipino and St. Francis Hospital health fairs, as well as on public access television.
Symptoms of hepatitis B can include headache, yellow skin, weakness, dark urine, upset stomach and pain. Some carriers might have no symptoms but can still pass on the infection.
A series of three vaccinations can protect against hepatitis B.
Steps being taken in Hawaii to reduce the disease include screening of pregnant women to prevent transmission to newborns, offering the first dose of vaccine at birth to most babies, requiring hepatitis B vaccination to enter preschool, day care and kindergarten and a vaccination to enter seventh grade.
Vaccine is distributed statewide to physicians for children 6 to 18 years old in the TEEN VAX project.
For more information, see the Health Department Web site at www.hawaii.gov/health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.