State Holds Hepatitis Summit to Raise Awareness

Title: State Holds Hepatitis Summit to Raise Awareness
Location: Ramada Plaza Hotel South Charleston, WV
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Description: West Virginia health officials are holding a summit to raise awareness about the prevalence of hepatitis B in the state.

The W.Va. Viral Hepatitis B Summit, hosted by the state Office of Epidemiology and Preventative Services, is scheduled Thursday, May 20, at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in South Charleston.

State figures show the number of reported hepatitis B cases in West Virginia increased from 69 in 2005 to 84 in 2009.

Sharing needles and other equipment for drug use is the biggest factor in the state\’s high rate of hepatitis B cases, said Loretta Haddy, director of the state epidemiology office.

\”That\’s what is indicated on the reports we have received on hepatitis B, and that\’s all we really have to go on,\’\’ Haddy said. \”With the culture and population of injecting drug users in those counties, we can identify risk behavior like that and try to intervene and target those populations and minimize transmission and get out educational messages.\’\’

Other risk factors include having unprotected sex, especially men with other men, having many sex partners, or having had another sexually transmitted disease.

Hepatitis B causes inflammation, jaundice and vomiting. The illness is caused by a virus that infects the liver and is rarely fatal.

The virus can survive outside the body for up to seven days, said Sandra Graham, coordinator of the Adult Viral Hepatitis Program for the state Bureau for Public Health.

Thirty local health departments, two jails and two substance abuse centers in the state offer free vaccines, Graham said. Preventative education also is provided.

Date: 2010-05-20