Must I disclose my status to housemates?

Hello I’ve Just recently joined this online space and have also very recently been diagnosed with hepatitis b. I’m 22 and a college student and have lived at home while I’ve been studying as my home is near my university.

The problem is now in a few months as part of my course I will have to move out of home as I will be moving to begin some work placement and will be sharing a house with a few people from my course that will be working in the same company as me.

I live in a country where hep b would only have been introduced into the childhood vaccine series in the past 10 years so it’s extremely unlikely that my housemates will have received the vaccine.

I’m just quite stressed about this situation as I haven’t even told my friends about my status only my family know but they have all been vaccinated now and I just have a fear of exposing people like the people I will be moving in with for work experience to the virus.

So my question is: Must I inform the people that I will be sharing a house with of my status before moving in to allow them time to get vaccinated?

I really appreciate all reply’s :grinning:

@HealthExperts

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Hi Cathal, so the short answer is that you do not have a responsibility to share your hep B diagnosis with your new roommates. As long as you’re not planning to have sex with anyone and avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, etc., then you can take your time to share your diagnosis with them. It’s important as a young woman to make sure that any menstrual pads and tampax are carefully disposed of so that your blood doesn’t get all over the toilets, waste bin and floors. As far as eating and sharing meals, using the same dishes and preparing food for your roommates - these are all fine to do because hep B is spread through direct blood contact, unprotected sex, sharing of sharp items (razors) and drug paraphernalia, and from an infected mother to her newborn baby during delivery.

I know from personal experience and from having spoken with thousands of people diagnosed with chronic hep B that the most stressful part of a new diagnosis is - who do I tell, who should I tell, who must I tell? The answer always depends on the situation. For example, if you’re starting a new relationship or in a current relationship, then it’s important to share your diagnosis because sex can transmit hep B. Of course using protection (condoms) can reduce the risk, but there is still a risk. If you’re living in a house with others, then it’s not imperative to tell your roommate that you have hep B. But you do want to be careful about avoiding the spread of any of your blood to others (e.g. menstruation, cold sores or mouth sores, bleeding cuts from knives, etc.).

With all of this, if you’d like to share more about your living situation that could be helpful in providing any specific advice. But again the short answer is that you do not have to tell your roommates just because you have hep B. Remember, there are other diseases out there, and blood is always a 2-way street! Ok, hopefully others will weigh in, but I wanted to reassure you personally what I believe is the short answer. There’s lots more I can say, but I don’t want to overload you with information.

Welcome to this group!! Thanks for trusting us with your question. Regards, Joan

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Thank you Joan for such a detailed and informative response. I’ve been made aware of the routes of transmission that can cause onward transmission of the virus and I’m aiming to be very careful with my personal hygiene and wound care etc. if that happens. I’m not in a relationship with any of the people I’ll be moving in with, we’re just friends so all in that regard should hopefully be fine.

There will be 5 of us sharing a house so a number of us will be sharing bathroom facilities so I will be making sure I will be prepared for that to keep all my personal items e.g. razors/toothbrush safely kept away in my room and to have a small first aid kit to cover wounds etc. and disinfectant in the case of blood spill or anything such as that.

Thank you for your advice I truly appreciate your response. Feeling a lot more at ease about the situation and better able to handle it now.

Regards Cathal.

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Hi Cathal,

I want to also welcome you to the forum and asking such a great question (one that I’m sure has been on the minds of almost everyone diagnosed with Hep B, myself included). I wanted to echo Joan’s views that there is no real MUST that you share your diagnosis straight away with them, given the tiny risk of transmission from regular social interactions even within the same household.

I am really glad that you’re feeling better about your situation and hope you’ll stick around to help our community grow.

Cheers,
Thomas

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Hi Cathal,

This is professor John Tavis, a senior HBV virologist. Both Thomas and Joan’s replies cover the topic very well and are firmly rooted in well understood science. As long as you follow their practical guidance, your roommates will be fine.

I wish you the very best.

John.

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Hi Cathal, just want you to know that you have heard from some of the leading scientists in the field of HBV research!! So glad they supported what I said, which is not exactly the “official” medical advice you would receive from a health care provider. BUT, it’s common sense advice that’s based on an understanding of how HBV is transmitted. Your message above reflects a good understanding of personal hygiene and any episode of bleeding. So now I would like to urge you to find a good liver specialist (hepatologist) or a doctor who is knowledgeable about managing hepatitis B. It a chronic liver disease, so your health will be prolonged if you seek regular medical attention. The current guidelines suggest every 6 months, but even once a year is good. Finally, depending on what your blood test results show, you could benefit from treatment that currently includes several different oral drugs (as well an injectable drug). Many of us on this patient forum are taking oral drugs without any problems - one pill a day is pretty easy. And they reduce the amount of virus circulating in your blood (referred to as “viral load”) to zero, which means you are essentially non-infectious. That can definitely reduce your stress! Anyhow, once you get settled, please feel free to return and ask any questions that you might have. All of us have gone through the experience of being diagnosed and learning how to live successfully and healthfully with chronic HBV!!

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I am an Infectious Diseases specialist and virologist and I agree this is all very sensible advice. There is no need for you to tell your flatmates and if you follow Joan’s advice the risk is minimal. However I also echo her advice for you to see a specialist to monitor your hepatitis B and consider the need for treatment. If you end up receiving treatment this would reduce the chance of you transmitting the virus to your flatmate (or even partners) to almost zero.

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When is it safe to stop using a band aid for a cut if you have hepatitis b and others in the household living with you?

Got a cut and made me think, when can I stop using a band aid. Is it when it scabs up, to like a hard layer? Is it when you no longer see any signs of blood and wound?

I usually use waterproof band aids that seals 360 degrees or liquid band aids which put a layer over the cut. But with constant hand sanitizing and hand washing, I am just wondering

Hi @NeptuneJ, great question!

In my opinion, the whole point is that you’re trying to prevent spreading any blood. Once it has scabbed up, there’s no big risk of that in a part of the body that doesn’t see much activity or is covered by clothing (e.g leg).

I’d be a little more conservative for parts of the body that you use a bit more often and where you’re more likely to accidentally scratch off the scab. In those cases, I’d be more inclined to wear a bandaid until the skin below has started healing (probably when it starts getting itchy is a good sign that the skin below has healed).

Any actual @HealthExperts want to comment?

Cheers,
Thomas

Yes I agree that sounds sensible.

If possible it would be best if household members were vaccinated for Hep B.

Kind regards

Mark (Infectious Diseases specialist)

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Hello! I have a relevant but propably silly question.
How do you deal with clothes that have touched a minor wound? I am currently doing a job that results in some small scratches now and there. Sometimes I don’t notice them righ away but later on during the day. How should I clean these clothes? What I do is I wash them seperately (I have a house mate) on 40C. Is this enough?
I don’t know if it’s relevant but my load last time was 1650.
Best,
Nick

Just to clarify. I am talking about small wounds (e.g. infected mosquito bites that bleed and similar minor wounds).

Hi @Nick_n,

Welcome to the forum and thanks for your question. Your viral load is quite low and the risk of transmission in general is therefore quite low as well (see similarly in this thread - Possible transmission by sharing water bottle). Ordinary laundry detergent is generally enough to inactivate any tiny amounts of Hep B that may have made it onto your clothes.

Cheers,
Thomas

Hello Thomas!
Thank you for your response! I am really grateful for this community!
I have two follow up questions.

  1. Should I wash them only once? Would it be preferable to wash it twice to make sure that my clothes are clean?
  2. Also, should I disinfect the washing machine afterwards with bleach before my housemate using it?

Thank you again!

Best,
Nick

Hi @Nick_n,

Detergents are going to inactivate Hep B, so the risk of Hep B hanging around is pretty low. I would think washing twice or disinfecting the washing machine is overkill for the amounts of virus we’re talking about here.

Cheers,
Thomas

If not your family, why would you wash your cloth with other peoples cloth? I wash my cloth separate from wife and kids. I use my own sink and my own bathroom. Not bc the fear of hep b transmission, but I use my bathroom in our bed room or basement.

In all honesty, even if I didn’t have hepatitis b, I would still wash my cloth and use separate bathroom from the kids

Hello Neptune!
Thank you for your response! My house mate is my brother so we share the washing machine since there is only one in the house.

Hello Thomas,
Again thank you for your response! I know my questions are silly but I am trying ti navigate my self with my diagnosis. One last question: As I said my house mate is my brother. Is it preferable not to wash our clothes at the same time?

Best,
Nick

Hi all,

HBV is fairly stable in dried blood at room temperature, but it is readily killed by detergents that remove its lipid envelope. I really don’t think it is going to survive washing with standard detergents, particularly if the machine is set to warm or hot. Even if trace amounts survive, they’d have to come in contact with an open cut or something similar on another person to transmit. In sum, I think that normal small amounts of blood from a scratch, etc. can be readily be dealt with by regular washing. However, if you desire additional peace of mind, you could use a spray cleaner to wipe down the controls and the parts of the machine that do not come in contact with the soapy water. Washing on hot would add another layer of certainty, but that might be hard on your clothes.

John Tavis

Hello Mr. Tavis,
Thank you for your response. Your answer really helps. I have to say that this small community is really amazing.
I set the washing machine on 40 Celsius (104F). I guess that’s warm enough (?). It’s the highest I can with out risking getting my clothes to shrink.
I had this question cause during the summer infected mosquito bites can bleed a little bit. I just wanted to make sure.
Thank you again!
Best,
Nick