The reported infection rate is 35 times higher than the rate in the general U.S. population. A total of 1,836 people were screened at twelve health care centers and community sites in New York City as part of the NYC Asian American Hepatitis B Program, which provides free screening, vaccination and treatment. It is funded by the New York City Council and the New York State and City Departments of Health. Nearly all of the participants were born in Asia; mainly in China and Korea. The infection rate within the Asian American community was drawn from an analysis of 925 people who had never been previously tested for hepatitis B.

A person's country of birth, gender and age influenced the prevalence of chronic infection, according to the study. The infection rate was highest in men between 20 and 39 who were born in mainland China. "These rates are extraordinarily high and underscore the need for more intensive screening in this population," says Henry Pollack, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, and the study's lead author. "There needs to be much more public awareness of this problem and physicians caring for this population need to be more attentive to screening for hepatitis B," he says.

About one in five persons screened in the new study who were born in China were infected with chronic hepatitis B. In general, the infection rate among those tested closely mirrored rates reported in the study participants' native countries and regions, says Pollack. Once diagnosed, proper evaluation and care and, in many cases, specific antiviral treatment, is the key to avoiding long-term complications of the disease. Hepatitis B infection can be effectively prevented by vaccination.

MEDICA.de; Source: New York University