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Hepatitis B (cont.)

What Is the Follow-up for Hepatitis B?

If an individual has acute hepatitis B, a health care practitioner will draw blood and examine the person periodically to see if the infection is resolving. If the person develops chronic hepatitis B, they will need periodic examinations and blood tests on an ongoing basis. If these tests indicate that the virus is actively damaging the liver, the health care practitioner may suggest a liver biopsy or begin antiviral therapy. The individual will also be given a vaccine against hepatitis A, which is an unrelated virus that may cause severe liver disease in people who already carry hepatitis B.

Chronic hepatitis B is associated with hepatocellular carcinoma. Fortunately, this is a rare cancer. A blood test can be used to detect a marker for this cancer or the cancer can be detected by abdominal ultrasound. Persons with chronic hepatitis B are usually screened periodically (every 6 to 12 months) for hepatocellular carcinoma, although it is not clear if this screening improves survival.

How Do You Prevent Hepatitis B?

In addition to the hepatitis B vaccine, other ways to protect yourself from HBV infection include:

  • If you are sexually active, practice safe sex. Correct use of latex condoms can help prevent transmission of HBV, but even when used correctly, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing transmission. Men who have sex with men should be vaccinated against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
  • If you inject drugs, don't share needles or other equipment.
  • Don't share anything (including grooming products) that might have blood on it, such as a razor, toothbrush, fingernail clippers, etc.
  • Think about the health risks if you are planning to get a tattoo or body piercing. You can become infected if the artist or person piercing you does not sterilize needles and equipment, use disposable gloves, or wash hands properly.
  • Health care workers should follow standard precautions and handle needles and sharps safely.
  • If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, tell your health care practitioner if you have any of the risk factors for HBV infection.

Is Hepatitis B Curable?

Some people rapidly improve after acute hepatitis B. Others have a more prolonged disease course with very slow improvement over several months, or with periods of improvement followed by worsening of symptoms.

A small group of people suffer rapid progression of their illness during the acute stage and develop severe liver damage (fulminate hepatitis). This may occur over days to weeks and may be fatal.

Other complications of HBV include development of a chronic HBV infection. People with chronic HBV infection are at further risk for liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

Hepatitis B Resources and Information

American Liver Foundation
www.liverfoundation.org
(800) 465-4837

Hepatitis B Foundation
www.hepb.org
(215) 489-4900

Hepatitis Foundation International
www.hepatitisfoundation.org
(800) 891-0707

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Disease Burden from Viral Hepatitis A, B, and C in the United States.
<http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HBV/StatisticsHBV.htm>


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/19/2016
Medical Editor:

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

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In 1965, Blumberg et al reported the discovery of the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), also known as Australia antigen, and its antibody, hepatitis B surface antibody (HBsAb).

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