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Hepatitis B: A serious infection that can be prevented


Monday, June 2, 2014
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This article focuses on a specific type of hepatitis that is important to know about during pregnancy –Hepatitis B.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver disease. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Many people with Hepatitis B do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Hepatitis B can cause severe liver damage and liver cancer. A simple blood test can tell you if you have hepatitis B. Doctors do not always do this test at a regular visit, so it is important to ask for this test.

Are there treatments for hepatitis B?

Yes. There are treatments for hepatitis B that can help your liver stay healthy. It is important to find out if you have hepatitis B so you can get medical care. You should see your doctor regularly to talk about your health.

Should pregnant women be tested?

All women should be tested for hepatitis B during each pregnancy. If a woman has hepatitis B, her baby can become infected at birth. Your doctor may recommend that you get treatment to help protect your baby from hepatitis B. Most infants who are infected at birth will have hepatitis B for the rest of their lives. If you have hepatitis B, there is a simple and effective way to protect your baby.

How can I protect my baby from hepatitis B?

There are steps that you can take to protect your baby from becoming infected with hepatitis B. These steps are:

  • Have your doctor test for hepatitis B during your pregnancy.
  • If the test says that you have hepatitis B, your baby will need two shots at birth. The two shots are hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Make sure your baby gets all their hepatitis B vaccine shots.
  • Once your baby has all their shots, make sure their doctor does a hepatitis B test. This test will make sure your baby is protected from hepatitis B.

Even if you do not have hepatitis B, your baby should still get all of the recommended hepatitis B vaccines starting at birth.

For more information about hepatitis B, talk to your doctor. You can also find information at the Minnesota Department of Health website at: www.health.state.mn.us/hepatitis

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