Asians focus of health event - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Asians focus of health event

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Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2005 5:57 am | Updated: 7:30 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Iris Kim, 19, discovered she had hepatitis B last year when she tried to donate blood.

"We’re trying to find out if my hepatitis is active and if I need to be treated," she said Saturday afternoon.

Kim, along with her dad, brother and sister, attended a hepatitis B health fair aimed at Asian Pacific Americans at the Escalante Community Center in Tempe. Her father and brother were waiting to be tested. Her sister does not have the disease.

Kim, a Korean-American who lives in Peoria, is among the estimated 130,000 people who become infected with the virus every year. More than half of the 1.3 million Americans who are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus are Asian Pacific Americans, according to the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University.

"A lot of Asians don’t know they have this," said David Kim, Iris’ father.

The Asian Pacific Community in Action, a health and community service nonprofit group in Phoenix, put on the event in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Korean and English warning Asian Pacific Americans about the symptoms and risks of hepatitis B.

An estimated 25 people were screened and vaccinated, said Marianela Melendez, a medical assistant at the event.

Often, symptoms don’t appear until late stages of the illness, said Dr. Tuan Nguyen, who conducts hepatitis B research in San Diego.

Symptoms can include yellow eyes, jaundiced skin, pain on the right side, fatigue, bad breath, nausea, vomiting and flulike symptoms, he said.

Patients with chronic hepatitis B could get liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure, Nguyen said.

Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids or blood, and 5 percent of the cases are chronic, according to the American Liver Foundation.

People at risk for hepatitis B include those who have had multiple sexual partners, intravenous drug users, those who live with an infected person, and those who were born in areas with high rates of infection. People from parts of Asia, Africa and South America are at high risk. Hepatitis B can be transferred from mother to child.

Sharon Lin, a Gilbert resident, said she found out about the event through a Chinese newspaper and a bulletin at the Greater Phoenix Chinese Christian Community Church in Chandler. She was filling out forms to get tested.

"Chinese people don’t do the preventive exams until it’s too late, so this is a great service," she said in Mandarin.

Jerry Hsu, a Paradise Valley resident who attends the same church, said he tried to get as many congregation members as he could to attend.

"Hepatitis B doesn’t recognize if you’re American or if you’re Asian — you have to get screened."

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