What’s your status?

UF receives grant to test people for hepatitis B

By Matt Galnor

The UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville received a $200,000 competitive federal grant as a part of multicenter national effort to better understand the prevalence of hepatitis B infection.

Starting in January, researchers are planning to test at least 2,000 Jacksonville residents born outside of the United States, focusing on those from Africa and Asia. The tests will be free, and the partnership in this community-based effort includes the UF Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Services, or UF CARES; the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute; the UF gastroenterology division; the Duval County Health Department and several local community and church groups.

The program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will include several community outreach events where people can be tested on the spot. Participants’ risks will be assessed based on where they were born. All participants will have a follow-up visit and those infected with hepatitis B will be linked to care. Those not infected will be referred for immunization against hepatitis B and will receive education on how to prevent the infection.

The testing will focus on people from countries where the hepatitis B infection rate is more than 2 percent. Many countries in Africa and Asia have infection rates upward of 8 percent, according to the CDC. Less than half a percent of U.S. residents are infected with hepatitis B and more than half of those people were born in a foreign country, according to CDC data.

“Hepatitis B infection can be silent for years and can have severe problems. Linking those who are infected to care will provide them with an opportunity to receive treatment and those not infected would be protected by the vaccine,” said Mobeen H. Rathore, M.B.B.S. (M.D), associate chair of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine-Jacksonville and principal investigator on this project. “It is important to know your hepatitis B status and this project will serve the community well.”

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