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What Happens if Someone's Diagnosed with Hepatitis B?

by Chari Cohen, Hepatitis B Expert
November 16, 2017

Question: What happens if someone has a hepatitis B infection?

Answer: All patients with chronic hepatitis B infection should be monitored regularly by a knowledgeable health care provider, since they are at increased risk for developing cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. Infected individuals can be seen by a knowledgeable primary care provider, or by a hepatologist (liver specialist) or gastroenterologist familiar with hepatitis B. The doctor will order blood tests and possibly a liver ultrasound to evaluate someone’s hepatitis B status and the health of their liver. The doctor will probably want to see patients at least once or twice a year to monitor a person’s hepatitis B virus and determine if they would benefit from treatment (not everyone who tests positive for hepatitis B will require medication).
 
If test results indicate that someone would be a good candidate for treatment, then the doctor will discuss current treatment options. Whether someone starts treatment or not, the doctor will want to see them every six months, or at minimum once every year.
 
Once someone is diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, the virus will most likely stay in their blood and liver for a lifetime. It is important to know that the virus can be passed to others, even in the absence of symptoms. This is why it’s so important that all close household contacts and sexual partners of an infected person are tested and vaccinated against hepatitis B.
 
While living with hepatitis B can be difficult and scary at first, the more information and support that someone has, the easier it gets! For more information on living with hepatitis B, please visit: http://www.hepb.org/treatment-and-management/adults-with-hepatitis-b/.

Chari Cohen is Director of Public Health for the Hepatitis B Foundation.

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