Diagnosing hepatitis B 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.
Have a Doctor?
We encourage you to get tested at your own doctor's office so your health can be monitored. Ask for the tests below for both yourself and your family. For best results, we recommend completing all 3:
• HBsAg- Hepatitis B surface antigen
• HBsAb- Surface antibody
• HBcAb- Hepatitis B core antibody
Here are some pre-made digital cards in multiple languages to show your doctor. We recommend you take a picture on your phone and take it with you to show your doctor. If your doctor can only speak English please remember to take a picture of the English card as well.
If you are a resident of San Francisco or San Mateo, there are free or low-cost tests available to you.
*If you are pregnant, ask your doctor for the hepatitis B surface antigen test (HBsAg) to see whether you are infected.
**Cards provided by Stanford Medicine.
Tests for hepatitis B are not included in routine physical examination blood tests and must be requested. 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.
Hepatitis B is preventable with a vaccine that has been available for over 20 years. The 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.
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. All newborns should receive the hepatitis B vaccine at birth. Ask your medical provider which vaccine is right for you.
*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. For those who need it, there are several treatment options available. While no cure for hepatitis B has been found, treatment can be used to reduce the liver damage that may result in cirrhosis and liver failure. Effective treatment may also reduce the risk of liver cancer. 1 in 4 will die if left untreated. If you do have hepatitis B take action immediately and consult a doctor.
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.
Managing Hepatitis B
Here are the steps for those who are chronically infected:
1. Measure ALT every 6 months to assess whether treatment is appropriate. Elevated ALT levels in the blood stream can indicate active liver damage.
2. Have the AFP test done every 6 months to screen for liver cancer. AFP (Alpha-FetoProtein) is a test used to look for liver tumors in patients with chronic hepatitis B and those at high risk for liver cancer. High AFP levels can indicate the possibility of liver cancer.
3. Receive an ultrasound every year to screen for liver cancer.
4. Get the hepatitis A vaccine to avoid further damage to the liver.
5. Avoid alcohol, drugs, herbal supplements and other substances that could potentially damage the liver.
6. Have family members screened for HBsAg (Hepatitis B surface antigen) and HBsAb (Hepatitis B surface antibody), and get vaccinated if appropriate.
7. Cancer patients who are infected with HBV should start prophylactic HBV oral antiviral treatment before chemotherapy to reduce the risk of acute or fulminant hepatitis induced by cancer chemotherapy.