According to the latest advice from the CDC, all adults 18 and older should be screened at least once in their lifetime for the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Previously, the CDC advised screening only for people known to be at increased risk for HBV, but such “risk-based testing alone has not identified most persons living with chronic HBV infection.” The updated recommendation was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on March 10, 2023. Information on this was recently published in the June 2023 UC Berkeley School of Public Health Wellness Letter.
This new screening is different than the already recommended hepatitis B vaccine titer checks. Many companies with First Aid Teams or employees who handle blood or other body fluids as part of their jobs offer titer checks to ensure at risk employees have a protective level against HBV. If the titers are at a protective level, then employees are protected for at least 30 years without the need for additional boosters. Serologic testing for actual hep B virus is not needed before receiving hep B vaccination or titer checks; however, the actual screening for HBV is now recommended at least once for adults, regardless of vaccination status. Adults should discuss this with their own personal healthcare provider.
Chronic HBV infection, which affects an estimated 580,000 to 2.4 million people in the U.S., causes inflammation of the liver, and increases the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Unfortunately, most individuals might not be aware that they are a carrier and when symptoms occur it is often too late for treatment.
Included in the update is the addition of three groups of people considered at increased risk for HBV who should be screened periodically (not just once): those who have a history of multiple sex partners or sexually transmitted infections, those with a current or past hepatitis C infection, and anyone who is or has been incarcerated. All pregnant women should also be screened, regardless of their history of past testing or vaccination.
Safe and effective vaccines are available for prevention, and although there is no cure, there are effective treatments to reduce illness and fatalities. Individuals should be informed of the new recommendation so that they can discuss this with their personal healthcare provider. Companies can communicate this new information to employees as part of your HR Benefits or Safety and Wellness Programs.
Please contact us with any questions or for additional information. A summary of the new recommendations, including the full list of individuals at increased risk for HBV, can be found here Recommendations Summary. MMWR Chronic Hep B Testing. Please let your employees know! PS:
Photo: Unsplash Hush Naidoo Jade