Hepatitis B Screening Recommendations Expanded

CDC says people born in Asia and Africa, at-risk populations should be tested
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- New recommendations have been issued regarding screening for chronic hepatitis B, according to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the Sept. 19 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Cindy M. Weinbaum, M.D., and colleagues at the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention in Atlanta, write that chronic hepatitis B virus infection, which is a major cause of liver disease and liver cancer, is the underlying cause of an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 deaths each year in the United States. The new recommendations call for screening of those born in countries where the prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen is 2 percent or more -- namely much of Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands -- as well as at-risk groups such as men who have sex with men and injection drug users.

The new recommendations also include the screening of persons receiving immunosuppressive therapy, as well as persons with abnormal liver function tests of undetermined cause. The report also provides recommendations aimed at guiding clinicians in the appropriate referral of patients with chronic hepatitis B for optimal management, as most effective treatments have only become available very recently.

"With recent advances in hepatitis B treatment and detection of liver cancer, identification of a hepatitis B virus-infected person permits the implementation of important interventions to reduce morbidity and mortality," the authors write.

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