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Hepatitis B among Asian, Pacific Islanders (API)

Hepatitis B among Asian, Pacific Islanders (API)

Hepatitis B is a serious infection that causes inflammation or injury of the liver. Persons born in, or who live with persons born in, countries with high rates of hepatitis B are much more likely to become infected with this disease. Most of the areas in Asia (including China and Southeast Asia) and the Pacific Islands have high rates of hepatitis B, with between 8 and 15% of the population chronically infected, meaning they have this infection for a lifetime.

The good news is that hepatitis B is preventable by a series of three immunizations given over 6 months. The bad news is that many children have not received these immunizations, including Asian and Pacific Islander (API) children. In the U.S., hepatitis B immunization has been recommended for all infants since 1991. Additionally, hepatitis B immunization is recommended for all children and adolescents under 19 years of age. In 1995, the CDC specifically recommended hepatitis B immunization of all API children under 11 years of age and "catch-up" immunization of all API children.

Ideally, adolescents should be immunized against hepatitis B at least by 11-12 years of age, if not as infants, when the likelihood of developing a hepatitis B infection dramatically increases; however, immunization of children living with a person who is or who is likely to be infected with hepatitis B should occur at the earliest possible opportunity. Children living with a person born in, or whose parents were born in, a country with high rates of HBV, including Asia and the Pacific Islands, should be targeted for immunization, and may need testing for hepatitis B prior to immunization.