Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer
Volunteers from Africa Partners Medical have worked to build relationships with members of the Somali community in Minnesota to enhance awareness of the high rate of hepatitis B and C virus infection and consequent liver cancer in the community. Recent research from Mayo Clinic which will be presented at the Annual Digestive Disease Week conference in May 2010 has revealed that there are especially high rates of hepatitis C virus infection in the Somali population in Minnesota, and that contrary to expectation, hepatitis C is the major risk factor for development of liver cancer among Somali immigrants in Minnesota. Current guidelines from the CDC and a recent report on hepatitis B and hepatitis C by the Institute of Medicine recommend screening of immigrants from high prevalence countries for hepatitis B virus infection, but there is no recommendation by either organization that immigrants be screened for hepatitis C virus infection. We plan to raise awareness of the risks to minority and immigrant populations of infection by both hepatitis B and C, and hope that our efforts will help change public policy on hepatitis C screening and improve the prevention, identification and treatment of hepatitis in these communities and the surveillance of those already infected for liver cancer so that it can be detected at early stages when it is most amenable to treatment.