Screening Pregnant Women for Hepatitis B Virus Infection: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation. Ann Intern Med. 2009;150:I-36. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-150-12-200906160-00003
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2009;150(12):I-36.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a group of health experts that reviews published research and makes recommendations about preventive health care.
Hepatitis B is a virus that spreads from person to person through contact with infected body fluids. For example, the virus can be spread by sexual intercourse or contaminated needles or from mother to baby at birth. Most people with hepatitis B recover within a few months, but some develop chronic inflammation (chronic hepatitis) or permanent scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver or liver cancer.
A 3-dose vaccine that contains small amounts of dead or altered virus can boost the body's normal defense (immune) system and help prevent hepatitis B and related complications. Patients should get the second and third doses 1 month and 6 months after the first dose. In the United States, it is recommended that all infants receive the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine before they leave the hospital after birth. However, further protection is needed for infants born to mothers with hepatitis B infection. These infants should receive hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immune globulin within 12 hours of birth. Hepatitis B immune globulin is a substance that boosts the body's defense against infection with the virus.
Doctors can screen pregnant women for hepatitis B infection with a blood test to measure hepatitis B surface antigen. In 2004, the USPSTF recommended that all pregnant women get this test at their first prenatal visit. The Task Force wanted to review studies published since that time to update this recommendation.
The authors reviewed published studies to identify the risks and benefits of screening pregnant women for hepatitis B infection. One benefit is that fewer babies develop hepatitis B infection.
The USPSTF found good evidence that screening pregnant women for hepatitis B infection decreases transmission of hepatitis B infection to infants of infected mothers. No published studies identified harms of screening. The USPSTF concluded that there is a high certainty that the benefits of screening pregnant women for hepatitis B infection outweigh any risks.
All pregnant women should have a blood test for hepatitis B surface antigen at their first prenatal visit.
These recommendations apply only to screening, which means testing women who have no signs of infection. The recommendations may change if new studies become available. However, the USPSTF has judged that it would take large, high-quality studies to overturn these recommendations.
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Infectious Disease, Prevention/Screening.
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