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Holy Name Medical Center only NJ Hospital to Receive Hepatitis Testing Award at White House

GLOBE NEWSWIRE 5/20/2016

TEANECK, N.J., May 20, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Holy Name Medical Center's ongoing efforts to provide free viral hepatitis screening were recognized by the U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS). Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, presented the Viral Hepatitis Recognition Award to Kyung Hee Choi, Holy Name's Vice President of Asian Health Services. The award was given during a special event, Responding to Viral Hepatitis in the U.S. – A National Hepatitis Testing Day Observance, on May 19, 2016 at 10 AM at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on the grounds of the White House. Holy Name is one of 12 recipients in the country, and the only organization in New Jersey to receive this award.

An estimated 3.4 million to 5.3 million people are living with viral hepatitis in the U.S., many of whom do not know they are infected. Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can lead to serious liver disease, liver cancer, and death if undiagnosed and untreated.

Holy Name was among other organizations selected by state and national viral hepatitis prevention coordinators and advocates after documenting success in screening hard-to-reach populations. They ensured a full diagnostic workup, linked persons identified as being chronically infected into care, and tracked data on program activities.

Holy Name offers free hepatitis C testing through the emergency department for baby boomers, anyone born between 1945 and 1965. The hepatitis C virus is prevalent among this population, for reasons not quite understood, and Holy Name is using a grant from Gilead Sciences to fund the screenings. It is the only Bergen County hospital providing the free testing.

Holy Name also provides free screenings for hepatitis B. The hospital's Asian Health Services is using grants from various organizations for the testing, focusing on the Asian American population where the disease is so prevalent.

"Holy Name has become a national model for delivering culturally-appropriate care and part of that mission is knowing the specific needs of our diverse communities," said Michael Maron, President and CEO of Holy Name. "We are proud to be recognized by the White House and HHS for our committed efforts to offer education, screenings and treatment for viral hepatitis."

Accepting the award with Ms. Choi was J. Cedar Wang, MSN, RN, CHSE, Director of Simulation Education at Holy Name. The Simulation Center is instrumental in helping train Holy Name employees and volunteers on culturally-sensitive care and to be cognizant of specific diseases that are more common in different populations.

"Asian Americans have the highest prevalence rate of viral hepatitis B among all ethnicities in our region and having the screenings is the first step in achieving early detection and preventive care for this community," said Ms. Choi.

Nearly one out of every 20 Americans is infected with the hepatitis B virus, which is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, often from mother to child during childbirth. But the virus is much more common in members of the Asian community: Asian Americans are at least 10 times more likely to have or develop hepatitis B than Caucasians. In an attempt to reach a large number of people within the Asian-American community, staff members and volunteers of the Asian Health Services are organizing screenings at community churches. Hepatitis B screenings and vaccines are also available at the hospital's Teaneck campus.

"Despite a number of important advances in viral hepatitis testing, care, and treatment in recent years, awareness of HBV and HCV remain unfortunately low among both affected populations and healthcare providers," observed Corinna Dan, R.N., M.P.H., Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor in the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy. "That's why it is vitally important for all stakeholders – federal and nonfederal alike – to make the most of opportunities like Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day to educate as many people as possible. These efforts will help us achieve the U.S. Viral Hepatitis Action Plan's [PDF 2.05 MB] goals of increasing the proportion of people living with HBV and HCV aware of their infection so they can take steps to protect their health and prevent transmission to others."

Many people with the virus do not experience symptoms and don't know they are infected. Those who do have symptoms may have yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

When left untreated, 25 percent of those carrying the virus will develop a chronic liver infection, cirrhosis of the liver or liver failure that can result in death. Treatment can stop the progression of the acute disease and chronic hepatitis B infection can be successfully treated with drugs.

The most effective way to prevent the hepatitis B infection is with vaccination. Financial subsidies for vaccines are available for those with low incomes.

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ABOUT HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER

Holy Name Medical Center is a fully accredited, not-for-profit healthcare facility based in Teaneck, New Jersey. Founded and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in 1925, the comprehensive 361-bed medical center offers leading-edge medical practice and technology administered in an environment rooted in a tradition of compassion and respect for every patient. Holy Name provides high quality health care across a continuum that encompasses education, prevention, early intervention, comprehensive treatment options, rehabilitation and wellness maintenance. To learn more, visit HolyName.org.

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