What is the Testing Process for HBV in NYC?
Testing for Hepatitis B (HBV) involves taking a blood sample. When sent to a laboratory, three specific components are determined to be present or absent. Since HBV may not show up in blood results in newly-infected individuals, usually your doctor may want to perform another test in three to six months to check for those same three components.
If it is established that you have been infected with HBV, other tests will be taken to determine if you can spread the disease to others, how much of the virus is in your blood and to determine if any damage has been done to your liver by the virus through additional blood tests.
In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to perform a liver biopsy. A liver biopsy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes a representative sample of your liver to more accurately and precisely determine the amount of damage done to that organ. A liver biopsy is only performed after someone has tested positive for the virus.
What is Hepatitis B (HBV and How is it Contracted?
HBV, the hepatitis B virus, is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It generally affects the liver in infected individuals. People at risk of acquiring HBV include men who have sex with men, prison inmate populations, immigrants from third-world countries where testing is not easily available, intravenous drug users who share needles, an individual who has sex with someone with the virus, and immunosuppressed people, such as those on kidney dialysis or who have HIV/AIDS. It can be acquired by using the razor blade or toothbrush of an infected individual. Infants can acquire the virus from mothers during pregnancy or delivery.
HBV can be considered acute or chronic. An acute condition comes on suddenly after exposure to one of the risk factors mentioned above. Sometimes doctors may decide an acute case of HBV will spontaneously go away on its own. If the virus is determined to be a chronic condition, there are antiviral medications that can be taken to reduce the severity of an episode, protect the liver from further damage, and reduce the frequency of outbreaks. In the most severe cases, a patient may be told that a liver transplant is necessary.
Although the number of new cases of HBV appearing yearly has been decreasing, the CDC estimated that there are approximately one million people infected with the virus in the US. Outside of the US, the numbers are even bigger – it is estimated that there are approximately 350 million cases of chronic HBV throughout the world.
What are the symptoms of HBV?
The onset of acute HBV may resemble flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, changes in bowel movement and color, loss of appetite, changes in the color of urine, and yellowing of the skin known as jaundice. You may experience a dull pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen. Although acute HBV appears to happen suddenly, the virus has already been in your body anywhere from three to six months before symptoms appear. During these months after infection but before illness, it is possible to spread HBV to those with whom you share risk factors. After becoming ill, the disease can last from a few weeks to a few months.
Chronic HBV has many of the same symptoms as acute HBV, except that the illness recurs episodically throughout one’s life. It is possible to go decades without a recurrence although some people may develop illness more frequently. Chronic HBV is a very serious condition that may lead to liver failure, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and even death.
Whether HBV is a single isolated acute illness or a more serious chronic one depends on one’s immune system and its ability to rid the body of the virus, and the age of an individual when HBV is acquired. Individuals with underlying conditions such as cancer or AIDS are more likely to experience chronic HBV. Children infected during childbirth have a much greater risk of developing chronic HBV throughout their lives.
What is the Treatment of the Hepatitis B Virus?
Treatment of acute HBV may involve taking antiviral medications. Since HBV is viral and not bacterial, antibiotics do not work on the virus. If you have an otherwise healthy immune system, sometimes a doctor may advise bed rest, increased fluid intake, and proper nutrition without the administration of medication. A hospital stay may be necessary so that liver function can be monitored more closely when you are the illest.
Treatment of chronic HBV is more complicated. Antivirals can be given to reduce the severity of an episode of illness. However, just because someone has chronic HBV, it does not mean that medication will be indicated. Your health care provider will want to test you at regular intervals to determine if your liver is functioning properly. In cases where the liver has become too damaged to function any longer, a liver transplant may be recommended. If a severe case of HBV occurs in someone with chronic HBV, hospitalization may be necessary to closely monitor for signs of liver failure, cirrhosis, or viral spread to other parts of the body, a rare condition known as fulminant hepatitis.
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Dr. Gafanovich is performing STD testing as a part of her annual check up .
Is There a Hepatitis B Vaccine?
Yes, there is a vaccine to prevent infection with HBV. The vaccine consists of a series of shots that help the immune system build mechanisms to fight the virus if introduced into the body. People who should get this vaccine are those who work in health care fields, those who have regular exposure to the public, such as police and firemen, infants, individuals with risk factors for the disease, and people who travel to places where diagnosis and treatment of HBV are not as advanced as they are in the US, those with HIV, and people who already have an underlying liver condition. After receiving the vaccine series, you may be tested periodically to ensure you still have antibodies against the virus.