WHAT TO DO
Ask your doctor for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and surface antibody (anti-HBs) tests for both yourself and your family. These are not included in routine physical examination blood tests and must be requested. If you are pregnant, ask your doctor for the HBsAg test to see whether you are infected with hepatitis B.
If both your blood tests (HBsAg and anti-HBs) are negative, you have not been infected with hepatitis B nor are you protected. Get vaccinated to protect yourself. Your options include 2 FDA approved and CDC recommended vaccines, a 2 shot vaccination series (recommended for adults 18 and older),* or a 3-shot hepatitis B vaccination series**. Vaccination usually protects you for life. Ask your medical provider which vaccine is right for you. Vaccination usually protects you for life. All newborns should receive the hepatitis B vaccine at birth.
*Approved in 2017, this vaccine is taken in 2 doses, 1 month apart.
**Approved since 1989, this vaccine is taken in 3 doses, the 2nd shot 1 month after the first and the 3rd, 6 months after the first shot.
Not all people chronically infected with hepatitis B need treatment. However, if your blood levels of ALT are elevated ongoing liver damage may be occurring. Treatment with either lamivudine, adefovir or entecavir (a pill taken once a day) or a course of interferon shots may be appropriate in this situation. These are the only four FDA-approved pills for chronic hepatitis B. Appropriate management can reduce the risk of further liver damage and liver cancer.
People chronically infected with hepatitis B can enjoy completely normal lives, but need to take some necessary precautions to avoid further liver damage.
Get the hepatitis A vaccine.
Avoid drinking alcohol.
Do not share toothbrushes, razors, injection or tattoo needles to avoid transmitting HepB to others because they may be tainted with blood.
Ensure that all members of your household are tested and vaccinated if they are not already immunized.
If you are uncertain whether your partner is protected, the proper use of latex condoms is recommended.
Pregnant women infected with hepatitis B must make sure the newborn receives hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) plus the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and then follow-up with the second dose at 1-2 months, and the third dose at 6 months. This will be 97% effective in protecting the newborn from becoming a carrier.
Take control of your own health, learn about the management and treatments available for hepatitis B. Don't be fooled by advertisements for unproven methods of prevention and treatment.
Hepatitis B is preventable with a vaccine that has been available for over 20 years. The hepatitis B vaccine provides an easy and effective method for preventing HBV infection and its deadly implications. All people, including children, adolescents and adults should be vaccinated provided they are not already chronically infected with HBV.
Diagnosing HBV is done through a simple and inexpensive blood test that detects the presence of the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), a marker for chronic infection. Early detection of HBV will also help to prevent the infection from spreading.
Because over 10% of the Asian & Pacific Islander community is chronically infected with hepatitis B, all members of the API community should be tested for HBV.