Nowadays, not a day goes by without hearing about COVID-19 in one way or another.  As a GP, I get asked questions about current recommendations and safety of vaccination especially now that our practice started a COVID-19 vaccine clinic every Tuesday.  The NSW government continues to support its rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine over the age of 50 at GP practices but also has introduced a plan to set up a mass vaccination hub in Homebush.  Why?  It’s because there is no herd immunity to COVID-19.

Immunity is paramount in defending our body against a virus, which is acquired through natural infection or vaccination.  For hepatitis B, it is achieved by giving a dose at birth followed by three doses in the first 6 months of life on the NSW Immunisation Schedule.

Hepatitis B is more prevalent in Africa, Middle East and Asian countries.  You can be noticeably unwell but may not experience any significant symptoms especially if it occurs in childhood or during birth.  90% of babies infected at birth can have chronic hepatitis B.

The presence of active hepatitis B is routinely checked in the antenatal period but not necessarily immunity, which requires a different set of blood tests.

So if you’re unsure, ask you doctor to “check for immunity to hepatitis B”.

Say, you have done the test, and to your surprise it shows hepatitis B infection!  It can be distressing but the good news is that there is an effective treatment to manage it.  Of course, more detailed blood tests and scan are required to ascertain the phase and severity of the condition but you can avoid a delay in treatment by consulting a GP who can prescribe a highly specialised drug for hepatitis B.

So why wait?  If you are not sure of your Hepatitis B status, call the Madison Medical Practice Northbridge on 9987 2226 to organise a simple blood test and review with our doctors who can initiate treatment without delay.

Written by – Dr Jung-Yoon Huh FRACGP

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