Viral hepatitis symposium to be held

Hepatitis B (AP Photo)

An all-day symposium on hepatitis will be held on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Queen’s Conference Center.

The Dept. of Health is partnering with the Hepatitis Support Network of Hawaii, Hep Free Hawaii, and other local agencies to host “Viral Hepatitis Hawai‘i – Update 2014,” a symposium for medical professionals, social service providers, and community members that will include updates from local and national experts about hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment, hepatitis during pregnancy, and new drug therapies and research from the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new breakthrough drug to treat chronic hepatitis C earlier in October that has a cure rate as high as 95 percent. Viral hepatitis B and C are the leading cause of liver cancer, and Hawaii has the highest rate of liver cancer in the United States.

In Hawaii, an estimated 23,000 people are affected by the hepatitis C virus, especially baby boomers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that nationwide more than 75 percent of adults living with hepatitis C are baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965. The CDC estimates more than 121,000 deaths could be averted nationwide by screening and successfully treating hepatitis C among baby boomers.

Hepatitis C is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver that can lead to diminished liver function or liver failure. Most people infected with hepatitis C have no symptoms of the disease until liver damage becomes apparent, which may take decades.

Some people with chronic hepatitis C infection develop scarring and poor liver function or cirrhosis over many years, which can lead to complications such as bleeding, jaundice (yellowish eyes or skin), fluid accumulation in the abdomen, infections and liver cancer.

According to the CDC, about 3.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, and without proper treatment, 15 to 30 percent of these people will go on to develop cirrhosis.

The Saturday, Nov. 15, symposium will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Online registration is available at www.virahhephi.org.

For more information about hepatitis resources and events in Hawaii, go to www.hepfreehawaii.org

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