Question | Discussion | References

Counseling the Patient with Chronic Hepatitis B Infection

Author: H. Nina Kim, MD, MSc

Last updated: October 5, 2010

A 26-year-old woman was recently told that she has chronic hepatitis B. She underwent hepatitis B surface antigen testing at a local public health clinic, and the test was repeated 6 months later and confirmed again to be positive. She is upset about her new diagnosis, stating, "I feel well, I don’t know how I could be infected." She was born in the Philippines. She says that she was vaccinated as an adolescent and thought the vaccine would have protected her. She is worried about how to break the news to her fiancé. She and her fiancé have been sexually active together for approximately 1 year. Her partner has not received hepatitis B vaccine.

Which of the following statements would be considered accurate information when counseling this woman with newly diagnosed chronic hepatitis B?

A Most individuals who have chronic hepatitis B experience no symptoms.
B In many cases, people born outside the U.S get the infection from their mothers during childbirth or from infected household contacts as children. A person can also become infected with the hepatitis B virus when exposed to contaminated blood, having unprotected sex with an infected person, or through injection drug use.
C Hepatitis B vaccines do not offer protection to people who are already infected with hepatitis B virus.
D The woman’s fiancé should undergo testing for hepatitis B status. He should receive the hepatitis B vaccination if he does not have immunity to hepatitis B.
E All of the answers listed are correct.