More than 100,000 New Yorkers are currently living with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), according to a recent report from the city Health Department, released in recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, which takes place every May to bring public attention to viral liver disease, QNS.com reports.
The study, which compiled data on liver disease diagnoses between 2014 and 2015, found that Sunset Park in Brooklyn has the highest rate of hepatitis B in the city, with an infection rate of nearly 744.8 cases per 100,000 people. Flushing, Queens, had the second highest number of HBV-positive residents, with infection rates of 448.25 per 100,000 people. That’s much higher than the rate of hepatitis B in the rest of the country, which stands at about 1.0 cases per 100,000 population.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection that can be short-term or may develop into a chronic condition. The virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, from infected mothers to their children while giving birth, or via shared used hypodermic needles. Those living with hepatitis B long-term are at a greater risk for developing cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is also very common in East Asian countries, and Health Department officials noted that both Flushing and Sunset Park have very large Asian immigrant communities. Officials also warned that many people currently living with hepatitis B in these areas are unaware they have it and are not undergoing treatment for it. In many cases, people are realizing they are HBV-positive only when symptoms appear.
The best way to prevent a hepatitis B infection is to be vaccinated against it. However, testing for and treating the disease in at-risk communities are also integral parts of the effort to curb new infections.