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Doctors Target Hepatitis B In Boston's Chinatown01:31
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Targeting a disease sometimes known as the "silent killer," a group of local doctors will provide outreach in Boston's Chinatown this weekend.

On Saturday, doctors from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital will educate the public about hepatitis B and provide free tests for the virus.

The outreach is part of an effort by the local chapter of Liver Health Project, started by Harvard students.

Tim Anderson, managing director of Quest Diagnostics, the lab that will perform the tests Saturday, stressed the virus' oft-undetected nature.

"(It) is known as the silent killer," Anderson said to Morning Edition's Bob Oakes, "and over two-thirds of the people that have this disease don't even know that they have it."

The chronic disease, which can cause liver cancer or cirrhosis if left unchecked, has grown into a relative epidemic among Asian communities in the United States. Recent figures from the Boston Public Health Commission say that Asians account for half of all new chronic hepatitis B cases, though they make up only 10 percent of the population.

Anderson expects to find that many of the people tested on Saturday will be found to have the disease.

"Unfortunately, we'll probably find that a high number of the Asian population in fact have the hepatitis B virus," Anderson said.

To counter the potentially fatal virus, Anderson says early detection can save lives.

"A hepatitis B diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence," Anderson said. "Annual to semi-annual medical monitoring and anti-viral treatment, when appropriate, can keep the chronic infection in check and even lead in some cases to curing the hepatitis B virus."

The tests will be located at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England in Boston's Chinatown district (MAP).

For more information, the Liver Health Project created a PSA, found here.

Related:

This program aired on August 6, 2010.

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Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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