What is the difference between Acute Hepatitis B and Chronic Hepatitis B?

Acute hepatitis is the initial infection, which most people recover from (thereby becoming immune). Symptoms of acute infection vary — the person could either be symptomless or be seriously ill. Fortunately, about 90% of healthy adults recover from an acute Hep B infection.

However, if the hepatitis virus remains in the bloodstream for over 6 months, it indicates chronic infection with Hepatitis B.

How can I test for Hepatitis B?

A blood test is all that is needed to diagnose a Hepatitis B infection. These are the three types of blood tests commonly used to diagnose Hepatitis B:

1). HBsAG: Hepatitis B Surface Antigen

An antigen is a foreign substance that triggers the immune systems to respond. (This response includes producing antibodies, which are proteins that identify and destroy antigens).

The surface antigen is a piece of the Hep B virus that can be found in an infected person’s blood. A positive HBsAG test means that the Hep B virus was found within the bloodstream. However, this is not enough to discern whether the infection is acute or chronic.

2). HbSAb, or anti-HBs (hepatitis B surface antibody)

Once formed, antibodies protect you from future infections by the same virus. The HbSAb test is done six months after a person recovers from an acute infection, or after successful response to the hepatitis B vaccine. A positive (also known as “reactive”) HbSAb test means that the person is now non-contagious and immune to Hepatitis B.

 3). HbCAb, or anti-HBc (hepatitis B core antibody)

The core antibody is produced in response to the core antigen, which is another fragment of the hepatitis B virus. However, this antibody is found in chronically infected Hep B patients. Interpreting this test is more complicated. While it can indicate past or present infection, it can also be a false positive. Therefore, the HBcAb test needs to be done at least twice. If the Hep B core antibody appears together with the protective surface antibody (HBsAb), it means that the patient was previously infected and has since recovered. However, for chronically infected patients, the core antibody will appear together with the virus (a positive HBsAg test).





Written by: Sonia Lee, Hepatitis B Coalition Intern

A health disparity that disproportionately affects AAPIs

Although Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up less than 5% of the total US population, they account for over 50% of Americans living with chronic Hepatitis B1. Hepatitis B causes deadly liver disease in 1 out of every 4 infected people. Compare this to the more well-known West Nile Virus, which causes severe symptoms in less than 1% of affected people3.

What exactly is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver,” and Hepatitis B is the world’s most common liver infection. Spread via sharing infected blood or body fluids, Hepatitis B can cause anything between a short-term, acute illness to chronic disease. Chronic hepatitis can involve scarring of the liver, liver failure, and liver cancer.

1 in 12 Asian Americans are living with chronic Hepatitis B, but do not know it because of the disease’s symptom-less nature (until too late). Hepatitis B is a leading cause of liver cancer and has been nicknamed the “silent killer.” 1 This makes Hepatitis B a leading cause of liver cancer, despite being a preventable disease.

What’s the difference between Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E?

In a nutshell, the letters indicate separate viruses that vary depending on method of transmission. For more details, please refer to the following table: http://www.hepb.org/hepb/abc.htm

How can Hepatitis B be prevented?

The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is via vaccination. There is a safe and effective vaccine for Hepatitis B2, and the CDC advocates that newborns be vaccinated at birth2. Hepatitis B could potentially be eradicated, taking with it the suffering from Hepatitis B-induced ascites and hepatomas. Yet, the Immunization Action Coalition’s Hepatitis B Birth Dose Honor Roll has a shoddy showing4. For example, only one New Jersey hospital (out of almost 100 total) met the IAC’s standards (a 90%+ coverage rate of giving the Hepatitis B vaccine to newborns)4,5.  Asian Americans comprise over 8% of NJ’s population, making it clear that NJ has a long way to go6.

Want to check whether you are at risk? Take this quick and easy CDC assessment: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/RiskAssessment/


1 Asian & Pacific Islanders. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/Populations/api.htm

2 Hepatitis B Vaccination. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/hepb/

3 FAQ: General Questions About West Nile Virus. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/genQuestions.html

4 Hepatitis B Birth Dose Honor Roll. http://www.immunize.org/honor-roll/birthdose/honorees.asp

5 NJ Hospital Map. http://www.njha.com/membership/nj-hospital-map/

6 Asia and Pacific Islander American Vote. http://www.apiavote.org/documents/Fact%20Sheets/APIAVote1-pagerNJ.pdf

Written by: Sonia Lee, Hepatitis B Coalition Intern