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Screening for Hepatitis

NYU Langone doctors provide screening for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, two forms of viral hepatitis that can become chronic and lead to serious liver damage without treatment. Screenings are tests that can be performed to identify a disorder before symptoms develop. This is an important tool for identifying people who may have chronic hepatitis B or C and not know it.

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Both diseases are contagious and can be spread from person to person through contact with bodily fluids such as blood and semen. Hepatitis B and C can also be passed from mother to child during birth.

Symptoms may not appear for years or even decades after infection. Even if you do not have symptoms, these viruses can still damage the liver. For this reason, screening is recommended for early detection and treatment. It can also prevent serious illness, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, and hinder the spread of infection.

Vaccination is the most important tool for preventing hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B Screening

All adults 18 and older should be screened for hepatitis B at least once in their lifetime. Pregnant women are routinely screened for hepatitis B as part of prenatal care to prevent the virus from being passed from mother to child during delivery. In addition, people with an ongoing risk of exposure to the virus may be tested periodically.

Most people are now vaccinated against hepatitis B during infancy, a practice that has been in place since 1991.

Unvaccinated adults who are at increased risk include men who have sex with other men, people who plan to travel to a country where hepatitis B is common, people who are from regions of the world where the virus is common, and healthcare workers who care for people infected with hepatitis B.

Our doctors may also recommend hepatitis B screening for people with certain medical conditions that require treatment with immunosuppressive medication. These therapies can cause a dormant hepatitis B virus to reactivate, even if the infection hasn’t been diagnosed or caused symptoms. People with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or cancer, for instance, may be tested for hepatitis B before starting treatment with immunosuppressive medication.

To screen for hepatitis B, your doctor draws blood from a vein in the arm and sends it to a laboratory for analysis.

Hepatitis C Screening

Doctors recommend hepatitis screening for all adults ages 18 and older and pregnant people during each pregnancy. People with ongoing risks for hepatitis C may also be screened periodically.

To screen for hepatitis C, blood is drawn from a vein in the arm. First, the blood is tested for hepatitis C antibodies, which are proteins the body creates if exposed to the virus. If the test is negative, it means you do not have chronic hepatitis C. But if antibodies are detected, the same blood sample is tested for the virus itself. A positive result indicates current infection.

If the results of a blood test suggest that the virus is present in the bloodstream, doctors recommend further blood tests, which can be administered in a doctor’s office or at a testing site at NYU Langone before beginning treatment.

Our Research and Education in Hepatitis

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.