Hepatitis B (sometimes called hep B, hepatitis B virus, or HBV) is a viral infection, transmitted by blood or semen, that can cause liver disease. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment for drug injections; or from a mother to her baby at birth. The good news is hepatitis B is preventable through vaccination. The doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants at One Medical can offer vaccinations for hepatitis B as well testing for hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and treatment for the infection if necessary.
Not everyone infected with hepatitis B experiences symptoms, but for people who do have symptoms, they may feel fatigued, have a poor appetite, and/or experience stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but for many people, it’s a short-term illness. For some people, however, it can become a long-term, chronic infection that can lead to serious and even deadly health complications like liver cancer or cirrhosis.
The best way to prevent hepatitis B is to get a vaccination — either a hepatitis B vaccine alone or a combination vaccine for hepatitis A and B, such as Twinrix. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all infants and unvaccinated children under 19 years old should receive the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine is also recommended for any person at risk for infection by sexual exposure (meaning anyone whose partner has tested positive, is sexually active with more than one partner in a six-month period, is seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted infection, or is a man who has sex with men). In addition, people at risk for infection by blood (including people who currently inject or have recently injected drugs or who work in healthcare), international travelers, people with hepatitis C, people with chronic liver disease, people with HIV, people who are incarcerated, and anyone else who wants to protect themselves from the virus should receive a hepatitis B vaccination.
If you're diagnosed with hepatitis B, your provider may recommend antiviral medications like entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread), lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera), and telbivudine (Tyzeka). They may also recommend interferon injections, and in some cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.
The primary care providers at One Medical can help guide your decisions around hepatitis B testing based on your specific risk factors and lifestyle. Your physician may recommend hepatitis B testing if you’re sexually active, have had unprotected sex, you’re involved in higher-risk relationships (like open relationships), you engage in high-risk sexual behavior, you’ve had an infection in the past, or you have symptoms. Hepatitis B and other STD tests can be performed at your local One Medical office and tests are strictly confidential. If you know you were exposed to hepatitis B, talk with your primary care provider immediately to discuss vaccinations and early preventive treatment options.