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Do I Need a Hepatitis Test?

Return to hepatitis articles

Roughly 1.25 million people in the U.S. are carriers of the Hepatitis B virus, the most common serious liver infection in the world.

If you have been in any of the following risky situations or have come in direct psychical contact with someone who has several of the risk factors for Hepatitis B or C, it is often better to get tested so you can be quickly diagnosed and treated if necessary.

The Hepatitis virus is actually more infectious than HIV. In fact, many experts say the Hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more contagious. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver of which there are three types A, B and C. Typically Hepatitis A is short lived and does not cause severe damage. For this reason, most people are tested for Hepatitis B and C rather than A. The severity and likelihood that Hepatitis will cause severe damage depends on the state of the liver itself. If it is already damage, the chances of getting Hepatitis and becoming very sick are greater. Many of the following risk factors cause damage to the liver, therefore increasing the likelihood of facing complications related to Hepatitis.

Have Symptoms
Symptoms of A,B and C vary slightly but if you have other risk factors where you may have come in contact with the virus and also have abdominal pain, dark urine, fatigue, jaundice, nausea or vomiting, weight loss, fever, decreased appetite or any other out-of-the-ordinary symptoms, it is wise to be tested.

Liver Damage from Alcohol or Drug Use
Continued use of alcohol and other drugs wears down and damages the liver since it is forced to filter these toxins out. In alcoholics, Hepatitis B is prevalent especially in people who have cirrhosis, or severe scarring of the liver. Intravenous drug use also makes infection more likely since the virus spreads through bodily fluids. Poisonous mushrooms have also been linked to liver damage.

Medication Overdose
Overdosing on acetaminophen has been associated with the onset of liver damage.

Have Had Unprotected Sex with Multiple or High-Risk Partners
Hepatitis B can be easily passed from an infected person to his/her partner through unprotected sex. If you have had unprotected sex with even one or multiple high-risk partners, getting tested is a good idea.

Have HIV or AIDS
People infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, have a lowered immune system and therefore are more susceptible to becoming infected chronically with Hepatitis C.

Work in Healthcare
If you come in contact with patients on a regular basis as part of your career, being vaccinated against Hepatitis B and being tested for Hepatitis C is an important part of health maintenance.

Have Not Had the Hepatitis B Vaccine
It’s recommended that all children get their first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth and should have the series completed by 6-18 months of age. Adults may also be vaccinated. If you have not been, you may want to get tested and see if the Hepatitis B vaccine is still a viable option for you.

Live in a Household with Someone Who Has Hepatitis B
Items like razors, toothbrushes, needles, earrings or other products that could potentially carry bodily fluids, should never be shared. It is often best to be tested if you feel you may have accidentally come in direct contact with any of these things.