Center for Liver Diseases Screens Dozens for Hepatitis at South Miami Dade Festival

Committed to identifying people who are unaware they have hepatitis B or C, the Miller School’s Center for Liver Diseases, in collaboration with the Chronic Liver Disease Foundation, provided free hepatitis screenings at the Asian Cultural Festival in Homestead earlier this month.

Of the 231 people who gave blood samples for the quick and simple test at the Fruit and Spice Park, four tested positive, underscoring the need for more awareness and broader testing of the often asymptomatic diseases that many Americans have no idea they carry – until they develop serious problems, including liver cancer.

“Seventy-five percent of the people in the United States with chronic hepatitis B or C are unaware of their diagnosis,” said Eugene R. Schiff, M.D., the Leonard Miller Professor of Medicine and director of the Center for Liver Diseases, who for decades has been on the forefront of clinical research to improve treatments for hepatitis and other liver diseases. “Fortunately effective therapy for both of these viruses is available in the United States.”

Usually transmitted through contact with infected blood, hepatitis C has now surpassed HIV as a killer of U.S. adults, many of them baby boomers who experimented with intravenous drugs in the 1960s and ’70s, and unknowingly picked up the virus by sharing tainted needles.

Not as serious a problem in the U.S., hepatitis B is often transmitted from mother to child at birth, a more common occurrence in regions with high infections rates, including Asia.

For the second year in a row, a dozen volunteers joined Schiff on March 3 and 4 at the Fruit and Spice Park, providing information to and taking blood samples from fairgoers who stopped by the Center for Liver Diseases’ tent. Lennox Jeffers, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of hepatology at the Miami VA, also lent a hand.

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