Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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Public health specialist works to raise hepatitis B awareness

Janet Zola, the health promotion specialist at the Department of Public Health and co-creator of “SF Hep B Free,” was part of a week of events to raise awareness about hepatitis B in the Asian and Pacific Islander population (API).

What is Hep B Free? It’s a broad spectrum coalition of people in health care, the Asian-American community, businesses and nonprofits all coming together to stop the spread of hepatitis B and liver cancer.

Why the Asian-American community? In the API population there is a 10 percent infection rate. This is chronic, as it is less than 1 percent in the general population. It is one of the greatest health disparities we’ve seen.

How do you get the disease?
The disease is generally passed on at birth. Over half the people infected are unaware of it. When you become affected at a very early age there are no symptoms. Only simple blood tests can tell you. 

Can you get it any other way? It’s also a blood borne disease that can be transmitted sexually or through needles. Hepatitis B is about 100 times more infectious than HIV.

What’s the problem with fighting this disease? The great thing is we have all the tools to prevent and fight this disease. The problem is the lack of knowledge, lack of awareness and lack of funding support.