Screen high-risk people for hepatitis B: USPSTF

May 28, 2014

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is taking a stand on trying to reduce the incidence of hepatitis B (HBV) by recommending that individuals who are at high risk of infection should be screened.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is taking a stand on trying to reduce the incidence of hepatitis B (HBV) by recommending that individuals who are at high risk of infection should be screened. 

“This is very important especially since hepatitis B can be prevented,” according to FormularyWatch advisor James M. Wooten, PharmD, associate professor, department of medicine, section of clinical pharmacology, University of Missouri-Kansas City. “Unfortunately, it can also be spread easily, so screening is important. 

High risk is defined as those individuals who are born in foreign countries with a high rate of HBV infection, household contacts of those with the infection, injection drug users, patients with HIV/AIDS, and men who have sex with men, according to USPSTF.  Between 700 000 and 2.2 million US individuals have chronic HBV infection. This recommendation applies to asymptomatic, nonpregnant adolescents and adults who have not been vaccinated and other persons at high risk for HBV infection (including those at high risk who were vaccinated before being screened for HBV infection).

“All healthcare providers must understand which patient groups represent the highest risk so that they start routine screening,” said Dr Wooten.

“Fortunately, the screening test utilized today can distinguish between uninfected individuals who have been vaccinated, and thus have anti-HBV antibodies in their system, those who have cleared the infection, and those who are chronically infected. It is hoped that these guidelines will help control the spread of HBV,” Dr Wooten said.