Fiona Ma for State Assembly

World Hepatitis Day: Bay Area Assemblywoman Fiona Ma Campaigns For More Screenings of Disease

Former California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has become the face of the hepatitis B campaign urging for more screening of the disease on Sunday.

Ma was made aware of her chronic hepatitis B when she appeared at an awareness campaign six years ago, where a doctor pulled her aside and told her, according to San Jose Mercury News.

"I am lucky today," Ma told the Mercury News. "I am OK."

The disease reportedly affects one in 12 Asian-Americans and one in 10 Asians worldwide.

The campaign is led by a coalition of groups targeting the disease screened more than 200 people around the Bay Area in California for World Hepatitis Day.  About 50 of the 200 infected will go on to suffer liver cancer or disease.

According to the Mercury News, the public perceives hepatitis B as a vague threat, but Ma doesn't agree. Ma was 22-years-old when she offered to donate blood but found out it wasn't possible because she tested positive for hepatitis B. The virus was transmitted to her through her mother, and Ma's brother also has hepatitis B.

The virus is reportedly passed on from mothers to newborns in areas of Asia where  hepatitis B is endemic.  Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through sex and dirty needles.

Mercury News reports many who were tested Sunday were vaguely aware of the dangers and health risks associated with the virus.  They also assumed they were fine because they go regularly physicals, but hepatitis B cannot be found through regular blood work.

"In this country, routine vaccination of newborns and shots for children have cut into the disease among young adults. However, Dr. Jiayi Li of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic said that the vaccine isn't a cure-all," according to Mercury News. "In cases of a heavily infected mother, hepatitis B can survive in inoculated children. In the United States, fewer than half of births to women with chronic hepatitis B occur with prenatal case management."

The campaign's goal is to educate medical professionals as well as the general public about hepatitis B.

"Please get your family members screened and tested," Ma, who gets a liver test twice a year, told Mercury News. "You can potentially save someone's life."