Hepatitis B: Post-Exposure (Sexual) Prevention

Patient

Q: My boyfriend has contracted hep b, and is this curable or will I have this for rest of my life?

Doctor

A:   I am taking the liberty of presuming you have sexual relations with your boyfriend. Hepatitis B in fact can be sexually transmitted. The first thing for you to do is ask your mother or your paediatrician or your family doctor if you have had Hepatitis B immunizations as a child. Most countries have routine Hepatitis B immunizations on all newborns. These immunizations will build up your immune system and make antibodies to fight off the Hepatitis B virus when it gets transmitted to you. However, as one gets older, booster shots may be needed. The immune system will need a boost to make more antibodies as the antibodies made during infancy may not be high enough to fight off the virus. There are various blood tests to determine if you have indeed contracted the virus or your immune system has the enough amount of antibodies to fight off the Hepatitis B virus. If you have had immunizations as an infant, then you may request your doctor to determine the concentration of Hepatitis B antibodies in your blood. If the results are high enough, this means you are protected from Hepatitis B and there is a very small chance, if at all, of contracting it from your boyfriend. It will be up to his discretion or yours to have the booster shots. Although, when it comes to immunizations, overdose is very rare, if at all. In your case, the worst case scenario is you’ve had no immunization as an infant (therefore no antibodies, ergo, not protected) and you have already been exposed to the virus; there is a high possibility of contracting it. Post-exposure (sexual) prevention of Hepatitis B includes 1 shot of Hepatitis B immune globulin (aka antibodies) within 14 days of exposure followed by a series of Hepatitis B immunizations. After that, the antibody levels should be determined if your immune system has produced antibodies high enough to protect you from the virus. If the antibody levels are not high enough, you may need another series of shots until your immune system will produce enough antibodies to protect you from the virus. This may also be one of your options. I do hope I have enlightened you somehow. I wish you well always.

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