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Acute Hepatitis B Question
Apr 26, 2004

My husband was recently diagnosed with Acute Hepatitis B. (We were both tested for Hep B and HIV) ... my HIV test was negative, but my Hep B test showed antibodies present.

3 Questions:

1. Are the antibodies because I had the immunization some years ago, or that my body was invaded and is fighting it off? (I did NOT have ANY systems or sickness, but my husband did. That's how we found out).

2. I understand that you can get Hep B ONLY through sex. Is this the likely case?

3. Please explain what should be done next ... medically if necessary.

Response from Dr. Wohl

Hi

I am unsure why you turned to an HIV website for answers rather than you or your husband's physician but I can try and answer given the info you provide.

First, hepatitis B virus can be transmitted in many ways, not just through sex. Needle sharing and transfusion of unscreened blood products can transmit the virus as can infected mothers to their infants during birth. In addition, the virus is very contagious and less intimate contact such as the types that can occur among young children or in healthcare settings can lead to transmission. This is why school teachers, prison guards, health care workers, etc are often vaccinated.

There are antibodies to different parts of the hepatitis B virus that are measured to determine if you are infected. This can be complicated and I spend about 45 minutes going over this when teaching medical students. A simple point is that those who are vaccinated are hepatitis B surface antibody positive but core antibody negative; those who are infected develop core antibody.

A mostly competent doctor or health department clinician can help you sort out your blood work and interpret the meaning and I urge you to talk to a professional about this.

DW



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