Free hepatitis B screening offered to students
February 22, 2008 -- San Francisco State University will offer free and confidential, on-campus Hepatitis B (HBV) screening and vaccination to students from March 3 through March 7.
The University's efforts are part of the "San Francisco Hep B Free" campaign, conducted by a coalition of more than 30 health care providers, government agencies and community organizations including the San Francisco Department of Public Health, California Pacific Medical Center, the San Francisco Hospital Council and AsianWeek Foundation.
Hepatitis B, an infection of the liver that is responsible for one million deaths per year, is 100 times more infectious than HIV. It is particularly prevalent throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands. "San Francisco Hep B Free" campaign was launched to test local residents, particularly Asian and Pacific Islanders, because these populations have a one in ten chance of having the virus, as opposed to one in 1,000 for the general population. Without appropriate monitoring or treatment, one in four persons who have the HBV infection will die of liver cancer or liver failure.
"Hepatitis B is a vaccine preventable disease," said Director of SF State's Student Health Services Dr. Alastair Smith. "But even people who have been vaccinated could still carry and spread the virus if they were already infected before they received the vaccine." The virus is transmitted from infected mothers to children at birth or through unprotected sex or contaminated blood via shared toothbrushes, razors, tattoo and piercing needles. People infected at birth or during early childhood are often unaware of their infection because they show no symptoms and may have normal blood tests for liver function.
Diagnosis of chronic Hepatitis B can only be made with a specific blood test for HBV surface antigens and antibodies. Testing for Hepatitis B is not included in most routine exams and blood tests.
Dr. Smith urges all SF State students of Asian or Pacific Island heritage to get tested. California Pacific Medical Center will underwrite the screenings and cover the cost of vaccination or treatment determined by this screening.
The screening, a simple blood test administered by health professionals, will take place:
- Monday, Wednesday and Friday, March 3, 5 and 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the conference room of the Student Health Services building
- Tuesday and Thursday, March 4 and 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Towers Conference Center
The SF State campaign kicks off on Monday, February 25, with a HBV awareness event from noon to 2 p.m. in Malcolm X Plaza. Students from a variety of disciplines including nursing and health education will hand out materials and encourage their peers to be tested.
"This free screening could save lives," said Ingrid Ochoa, a Student Health Service educator who recruited and trained the student volunteers. "Our primary goal is to screen as many Asian and Pacific Island students as possible. But we will not turn away any students who wish to be tested."
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