during an early prenatal visit even if they have been previously vaccinated or tested (CDC, 1991; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2009). Currently, only 27 states have maternal HBsAg screening laws (CDC, 2008c). State screening laws do not necessarily translate into higher testing rates, because they often do not include an enforcement mechanism or sanctions for noncompliance (Euler et al., 2003b). In a study of family physicians in New Jersey, a state with a maternal screening law, Ferrante et al. (2008) found that 22% of respondents indicated that they did not recommend testing pregnant women for HBV infection.
At the 2009 International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease, Chao et al. (2009b) presented results of a study of perinatal health-care providers’ knowledge about hepatitis B and the management of HBsAg-positive pregnant patients recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Questionnaires were mailed or administered to 100 practicing obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) and 31 peripartum nurses in Santa Clara County, CA, an area with one of the largest annual numbers of HBsAg-positive pregnant women in the United States. Although most of the OB/GYNs reported that they tested pregnant women for HBsAg and properly advised HBsAg-positive women that their newborns should receive the hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immuno-globulin within 12 hours of birth, overall knowledge about hepatitis B was low. Only 26% of OB/GYNs and 10% of peripartum nurses knew that the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B is higher in Asians than in other ethnic populations; only 33% of OB/GYNs and 17% of peripartum nurses knew that there is a high risk of HBV infection becoming chronic in exposed newborns; and only 22% of OB/GYNs and 37% of peripartum nurses knew about the risk of death conferred by chronic hepatitis B. Only 62% of the OB/GYNs referred their HBsAg-positive pregnant patients for chronic-hepatitis management.
Health-care providers’ knowledge about hepatitis C appears to be similarly insufficient, although there is far less published research on this topic (Ascione et al., 2007; Ferrante et al., 2008; Shehab et al., 1999, 2001; Strauss et al., 2006).
In the study of New Jersey family physicians described above, Ferrante et al. (2008) found that although 95% would recommend testing of IDUs for HCV infection, only 81% would recommend HCV testing for people who received blood transfusions before 1992, and only 65% would recommend testing of incarcerated persons—all populations that are at high risk for HCV infection and that fall within national testing guidelines. Although HCV testing of pregnant women is not supported by any evidence-based