Commonly Asked Questions
Your adoption agency should be able to tell you if a child has been tested for hepatitis B. With an international adoption, it is advised that you do not request that your child be tested in the originating country since the blood test itself could be a source of infection.
Finding out that the child you wish to adopt has chronic hepatitis B can be upsetting, but should not be cause for alarm or stopping an adoption. We hope that a hepatitis B diagnosis will not change your decision to adopt a child. You can be reassured that most children will enjoy a long and healthy life. Hepatitis B does not usually affect a child's normal growth and development, and there are generally no physical disabilities or restrictions associated with this diagnosis.
All parents, siblings, and other household members should be vaccinated. Extended family members, childcare providers, family, friends, and others should consider vaccination if they have frequent and close contact with your child.
There are currently 5 approved drugs in the United States for children living with hepatitis B.
- Entecavir (Baraclude) is a pill that is taken once a day for at least one year or longer. It is considered a first-line treatment. Approved in 2014 for children 2 years and older.
- Tenofovir disoproxil (Viread) is a pill that is taken once a day for at least one year or longer. It is considered a first-line treatment. Approved in 2012 for children 12 years and older.
- Peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys) is an injection given once weekly for 6 months to 1 year and may include flu-like symptoms. It is considered a first-line treatment. Children must closely monitored by a liver specialist with regular visits and blood tests.
- Interferon alpha (Intron A) is an injection usually given three times a week for 6 months to 1 year. Children generally experience fewer side effects than adults, but they can include flu-like symptoms. They must be closely monitored by a liver specialist with regular visits and blood tests. This is an older drug that is not usually prescribed.
- Lamivudine (Epivir-HBV, Zeffix, Heptodin) is a pill that is taken once a day for at least one year or more. This is an older antiviral that results in drug resistance, thus, considered a second-line treatment.
However, not every child (or adult) with hepatitis B needs to be treated. You should see a pediatric liver specialist to determine if your child would benefit from one of these approved treatments. Whether you decide to start treatment or not, your child should see a liver specialist or doctor skilled in hepatitis B on a regular basis.