Hepatitis B Treatment (cont.)
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Hepatitis B Treatment
Prevention is vital to avoid hepatitis B virus infection. The current recommendation is that all children be vaccinated. Additionally, the following individuals should receive the hepatitis B vaccine:
If a person is exposed to hepatitis B, then hepatitis B immune globulin (BayHep, H-BIG, Hep-B-Gammagee, Hyper Hep, Nabi-HB) is sometimes recommended. Hepatitis B immune globulin contains antibodies to the virus which can help reduce the risk of disease.
If a person is chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus and has no signs of complications, medications are usually not used. These patients are watched carefully and given periodic blood tests. One test, called the 'viral load' measures the amount of viral DNA in the blood. Doctors may recommend treatment if there are signs the virus is beginning to cause damage or if the viral load is elevated. Another reason to prescribe medication is if the patient has a positive test for the hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) in the blood. HBeAg is associated with an increased risk of complications.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the number of viruses in the body and reduce the risk of complications. Unfortunately, medications do not cure the disease. Doctors track blood tests and may perform liver biopsies to determine if the medications are working.
The medications in current use for chronic Hepatitis B include the nucleoside/nucleotide analogues and interferons. New agents are being developed.
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