CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a virus 100 times more infectious than HIV, that can live for a week outside the body on razors and toothbrushes, that destroys the liver through cirrhosis and cancer, and doctors and patients may not even realize it’s there until it kills the host, and infects others.

It’s this insidious nature of viral hepatitis that has healthcare workers nationwide urging people to take advantage of the free blood tests on Monday, May 19th –National Hepatitis Testing Day.

Hepatitis B and C affects Baby Boomers, Asian and Pacific Islanders at higher rates than other groups, and globally, 160 million people are currently infected, with 3-4 million new infections every year. In America, one in every 12 Asian Americans has chronic Hepatitis B and patients may not even know they have it until it’s too late.

The San Francisco-based Asian Week Foundation is working with the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable to organize the testing efforts in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

Free testing is available in Chicago on a rotating basis in May at these locations:

More details on these scheduled events including online webinars can be found on the Asian Health Coalition’s website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe hepatitis as any inflammation of the liver. When a letter is added to the name, it’s describing a viral infection attacking the liver, causing the inflammation:

Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis AHepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.

SOURCE: CDC Hepatitis Page

Vaccines are available to prevent Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, but no vaccine exists yet for Hepatitis C.

For testing more information in other cities:

San Francisco
New York City
Los Angeles

CBS is proud to partner with Asian Week Foundation to help inform our communities about viral hepatitis.