Genetics Northern California

Hepatitis B Screening Program

Program Background
The Regional Perinatal Screening Hepatitis B program was established in 1988. This program tracks mothers who test positive to hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg+) and their infants for completion and documentation of all immunizations recommended to prevent hepatitis B. Nearly 100% of all infants born to hepatitis B carrier mothers at KPNC receive recommended vaccines on schedule.

  • The Hepatitis B Screening Program number is 510-752-6191.

Prenatal Screening
A pregnant woman who is infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) can transmit the disease to her baby. Without immunization, her baby could develop HBV infection and become a hepatitis B carrier. Hepatitis B carriers have up to a 25% chance of developing liver failure or liver cancer during their life. All pregnant women should be tested early in pregnancy to determine if they are infected with hepatitis B virus.

At Kaiser Permanente, every pregnant woman has a series of routine blood tests ordered early in the pregnancy including hepatitis B. The blood test for the Hepatitis B virus indicates whether a woman carries the Hepatitis B virus. If she is a carrier, her baby will be given vaccines at birth and during infancy to protect the baby from the virus.

Pediatric Follow-up
Babies born to hepatitis B carrier mothers will receive two vaccines (HBIG and Hepatitis B vaccine) within 12 hours of birth. An additional hepatitis B vaccine is given at one month to two months of age and another vaccine at six months. At nine to fifteen months old these babies take a blood test to make sure they have developed antibodies to protect them from hepatitis B. The Regional Perinatal Screening program documents that all vaccines and blood tests are done at the optimal times.

In addition to infant follow-up, it is important that all family and household members be tested for, and if appropriate, immunized against hepatitis B.

Medical Follow-up
Hepatitis B is a virus that affects people of all ages worldwide. Many people who get HBV do not have symptoms.

Most adults recover from hepatitis B virus after several months. They clear the infection from their bodies and won't get hepatitis B again. About 10% of adults and most young children who are infected with HBV are unable to clear the infection and become carriers of hepatitis B. Although most carriers have no serious problems with hepatitis B and lead normal healthy lives, some carriers will later develop liver problems. Hepatitis B carriers are at significantly higher risk than the general population for liver failure or liver cancer.

It is recommended that anyone diagnosed as a hepatitis B carrier consult with their medical doctor. The physician will do blood tests to check how the liver is working and check for early signs liver cancer. If there are liver test abnormalities, a specialist may be consulted.

The following two handouts from the Immunization Action Coalition provide a good overview of the most common questions about hepatitis B and being a hepatitis B carrier:

Questions Frequently Asked About Hepatitis B

If You Have Chronic Hepatitis B (HBV) Infection

Where to get more information:
American Liver Foundation
Asian Liver Center
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Hepatitis B Foundation
Hepatitis Foundation International
HebB Moms - Online resource for mothers-to-be
Immunization Action Coalition
Vaccine Information for the Public and Health Professionals

Last reviewed: April 2015
Reviewed by: Kaiser Permanente Genetics Department