WHAT TO DO
Ask your doctor for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), surface antibody (HBsAb) and the hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) 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, there are clinical indications where treatment is suggested. A knowledgeable health provider should be consulted for each individual's case.
To determine whether you need medication treatment, physician will likely check for liver cirrhosis, ALT levels and hepatitis B virus DNA levels. If a physician advises the start of treatment, preferred antiviral medication include Entecavir, Tenofovir (TDF) and Tenofovir (TAF) which are all pills taken once a day. Which treatment is right for you should be a discussion with you and your physician. 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 hepatitis B 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 Hepatitis B Virus (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.
Before 2017, the hepatitis B vaccine consisted of a 3 shot series received on the first visit, 1 month later and 5 months after the second visit. In 2017 a new 2 dose vaccine was approved by the FDA for adults. The first dose is received on the first visit and the second 1 month later.
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 as much as 8% of the Asian & Pacific Islander (API) adult, immigrant community is chronically infected with hepatitis B, all members of the API community should be tested for HBV.