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Surface antigen test
Dec 18, 2000

Some time in 1985 or 1986 my physician suggested that I take a "new" vaccination for Hepatitis B. After a blood test, I was told that I needn't be inoculated because I had been exposed to the virus. I repeated the exercise twice in far-flung locations around the world (I've had to move a lot due to my work). In 1989 and in 1999 I was again told that I didn't need inoculation due to a past exposure.

At no time during this process was I informed of this surface antigen test which, I suppose, ultimately determines whether one's own immune system has dealt with the disease. To my knowledge I have never had a hepatitis related illness in the 15 years since I first tested.

Given these circumstances, I would kindly appreciate a response to the following:

1. What is the surface antigen test?

2. Is the surface antigen test part of the vaccination screening process?

3. After such a long period of relatively good health do I need to take a more specific test to determine the status of the virus in my body?

4. Am I contagious?

5. Am I now immune to Hepatitis B?

Thanks for the help.

Response from Dr. Dieterich

It sounds like you have HBV core antibody which signifies a prior infection so you do not need vaccination. The surface antigen sometimes stays around forever and is not usually an issue. To answer the other questions you would have to tell me about more test results: the surface antigen and antibody, the e antigen and antibody and if positive for either antigen, the HBV DNA level. DTD

Hep C, Cirrhosis, and Varices
Too Old for Hepatitis Vaccine?

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