Liver Disease and Hepatitis Program, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Alaska Native Medical Center, Anchorage.
Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis in up to 25% of infected individuals. As many as 2 million individuals in the US may have chronic hepatitis B infection, most of whom immigrated to the US from hepatitis B-endemic regions of the world. A 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine noted that two thirds of patients with hepatitis B are unaware of their infection, and most health care providers do not screen for hepatitis B or know how to manage hepatitis B-positive patients. In 2010, the Hepatitis B Foundation convened a group of primary care providers to consider the existing evidenced-based recommendations and strategies for implementation of hepatitis B screening into routine practice. The group designed an easy-to-use algorithm for screening, initial evaluation, ongoing management, and referral to a subspecialist when appropriate. Internal medicine specialists, including primary care providers and subspecialists, need to understand the steps they can take to address this often under-recognized disorder.