Prevention Among Asian and Pacific Islanders Facts


Why focus on Asians and Pacific Islander Americans?

  • Hepatitis B infection is much more common in people who live in or were born in parts of Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South America. Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants and refugees living in the U.S. and their children also have high rates of hepatitis B. Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants, refugees, and their children should be tested for hepatitis B.
  • Up to 15 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants living in the U.S. and their children are chronically infected with hepatitis B. Less than one percent of persons in the U.S. of non-Asian and Pacific Islander descent are chronically infected.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It may cause serious liver damage, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and death.

How many people in the U.S. are affected by hepatitis B?

  • There are 80,000-100,000 new hepatitis B infections each year. Half of those with new infections do not have any symptoms and can unknowingly spread the infection to others.
  • About 1 million people are chronically infected or "carry" the virus in their blood for life. People with chronic hepatitis B often feel fine and may not know they have the disease.
  • About 4,000-5,000 people die every year of liver disease related to chronic hepatitis B.

How many people in Washington State are affected by hepatitis B?

Around 60 to 100 cases of acute hepatitis B and 1,100 to 1,600 cases of chronic hepatitis B are reported in the state every year. Each year, 340-380 hepatitis B-positive pregnant women are identified, resulting in 2-7 cases of infants with hepatitis B virus infections.

How is hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with the blood and body fluids of a person already infected with hepatitis B, including:

  • From a mother to her baby during childbirth.
  • Sexual contact with an infected person.
  • Injection drug use.
  • Household contact with a person with hepatitis B.
  • Occupational exposure, such as an accidental needlestick.

How can someone find out if they have hepatitis B?

The only way to know if you have hepatitis B is by getting a blood test. A small tube of blood will be drawn. The blood will be analyzed by a lab or doctor. The test results will show if you have the virus, are already protected, or need the hepatitis B vaccine.

How can you prevent hepatitis B?

  • Get vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective in preventing the disease. It is the first anti-cancer vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots, usually given over six months. Babies usually get the first shot at birth. Unfortunately, the hepatitis B vaccine is not effective if the person already has hepatitis B.
  • Do not chew food to share with your baby.
  • Do not share anything between household and family members that may already have or can get blood on it, such as a toothbrush, razor, or nail clippers.
  • Practice safe sex by using condoms.
  • Do not use injection drugs or share needles.

How is hepatitis B treated?

Hepatitis B is treated with pills, injections, or both. Talk with your doctor about treatment options.