Doctor Hoang Tran is urging Vietnamese Australians and their families to get tested for Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B affects one in 11 Vietnamese Australians. The real tragedy is that many people with Hepatitis B do not know it.
If their hepatitis B is left untreated, up to one in four of these people may develop liver damage and/or liver cancer. Talk to your doctor and get tested. Your life could depend upon it.
About Doctor Hoang Tran
Doctor Hoang Tran came to Australia in 1983 as a refugee. He is now a doctor in Footscray and is passionate about helping his community.
Hepatitis B, or ‘hep B’, is a virus. It affects the liver. It can cause:
- inflammation (swelling)
- scarring (also known as cirrhosis); and/or
- liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is widespread in Vietnam and other parts of Asia, where over a period of years there have been high rates of Hepatitis B combined with ineffective vaccination programs.
Hepatitis B and liver cancer
If left untreated, Hepatitis B virus can cause liver damage and or liver cancer. Liver cancer is a growth in the liver. Often people with Hepatitis B do not have any symptoms, yet serious liver damage can still occur.
You need to get tested
People who were born in Vietnam and their families should be tested for hepatitis B. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived in Australia, it is important to ask your doctor for a Hepatitis B test.
A Hepatitis B test is not usually included in the health checks you need to migrate to Australia, or in a doctor’s yearly check-up. This is why it is important that you ask your doctor.
How to get tested
If you're not sure if you've been tested or vaccinated in the past, next time you visit your doctor, ask for a simple Hepatitis B blood test.
A blood test can tell you if you:
- have chronic Hepatitis B (chronic means lifelong)
- need a vaccine to protect you
- have had a vaccine in the past and are protected.
Vaccination for Hepatitis B
If you don’t have Hepatitis B, you can be protected by receiving a vaccination. In Australia babies are usually vaccinated within eight days of birth. This is followed up with three more doses within their next year of life. The vaccine for adolescents and adults is usually given as three injections.
Family and people in close contact with someone who has Hepatitis B can be vaccinated for free. But vaccination won’t protect you if you already have chronic Hepatitis B. This is why testing before vaccination is essential.
Treating chronic Hepatitis B
People with chronic Hepatitis B can lead healthy lives. Regular tests every six months and treatment when needed will help to prevent liver cancer.
The treatment keeps the virus under control, but it is not a cure. Not everyone with chronic Hepatitis B will need treatment. Some people will only need monitoring. A doctor will help you decide what type of treatment or monitoring is required.
Transmitting Hepatitis B
The easiest way to prevent the spread of Hepatitis B is through vaccination.
The Hepatitis B virus is carried in body fluids and blood. The virus spreads when these fluids get into the body of another person who is not vaccinated.
It cannot be spread by:
- sharing food, drinks and cutlery
- hugging and kissing
- shaking hands.
It can be spread:
- silently from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth (if the baby does not get a vaccine at birth)
- through unprotected sex
- by sharing injecting drug equipment
- by unsterile medical procedures
- by infected blood going into the bloodstream in some other way, such as unsterile tattooing.
For information in Vietnamese call 13 14 50. When you call, say your language and ask for Cancer Council Victoria. Read or download the Hepatitis B and liver cancer fact sheet, or the Vietnamese equivalent, Viêm gan B và ung thư gan.