Friday, February 14, 2014

Are Doctors Screening Their Patients for Hepatitis B?

by Curtis T. Miyamoto, MD

The CDC has specific guidelines for testing. All persons born in regions of high and intermediate HBV endemicity, IV drug users, men with male sexual partners, immunosuppressed patients, people with elevated liver function tests, blood product donors, hemodialysis patients, pregnant women, infants born to HBsAg positive mothers, people living with infected patients, people who engage in needle sharing, individuals with sexual contact with hepatitis B surface antigen positivity and HIV-positive individuals should be tested and treated appropriately. And all US-born citizens not vaccinated as an infant should be tested.

This is an extensive list of individuals who are risk and, therefore, many more individuals should be tested than are currently being tested.  In spite of this, many patients at risk in the Philadelphia region are not being screened for hepatitis B. This means that patients who are chronically infected are not being diagnosed and patients who have been exposed are not being vaccinated, putting them at greater risk. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hepatitis B vaccination is covered. The obvious question is — why aren’t all patients at risk being screened?

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