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Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver caused by
hepatitis B virus. Most adults who have hepatitis B
will recover on their own. However, children and some
adults can develop chronic (lifelong) hepatitis B.
How is it spread?
Hepatitis B virus is spread by contact with body fluids
that carry the virus, such as:
Other body fluids
Hepatitis B is spread by contact with infected body fluids, mostly by:
Sexual contact: (This is the most common way it is spread in the U.S.)
Vaginal and anal sex
Sharing unclean sex toys
Body fluids with hepatitis B can enter tiny breaks or rips in the linings
of the vagina, vulva, rectum,or mouth. Rips and tears in these areas can be common and often unnoticed.
Used or unclean needles
During illegal drug or drug equipment use
Contact with blood:
Open sores of an infected person
Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
Being tattooed or pierced with tools that were not properly cleaned
Pregnancy and birth:
Hepatitis B can spread to babies during pregnancy and birth.
can pass hepatitis
B to their babies
Hepatitis B is rarely spread from a blood transfusion because:
Hepatitis B tests are done on all donated blood.
Blood and blood products that test positive for hepatitis B are safely destroyed. None are used for transfusions.
There is no risk of getting hepatitis B when donating or giving blood.
Who is at risk of hepatitis B?
Anyone can get hepatitis B if not vaccinated. However, in the U.S., you may be at a higher risk if you:
Have sex partners that have hepatitis B
Have HIV or another STD
Inject drugs or share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
Work in health care or public safety and are exposed to blood or body fluids on the job
Are an infant born to an infected mother
What are signs of hepatitis B?
When you first get hepatitis B, it is called acute
hepatitis B. Most adults who have hepatitis B will
recover on their own. However, children and some
adults can develop chronic (lifelong) hepatitis B.
Acute hepatitis B: Signs of acute hepatitis B can
appear within 3 months after you get the virus.
These signs may last from several weeks to 6 months.
Up to 50% of adults have signs of acute hepatitis B
virus infection. Many young children do not show any
signs. Signs include:
Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
Loss of appetite
Chronic hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is chronic when the
body can't get rid of the virus. Children, mostly infants,
are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B than adults.
People with chronic hepatitis B may have no signs
for as long as 20 or 30 years. Signs may be the same
as acute hepatitis B. There may also be signs of liver
damage and cirrhosis such as:
Small, red, spider-like blood vessels on the skin
Confusion or problems thinking
Loss of interest in sex
Swollen stomach or ankles
A longer than normal amount of time for bleeding
How do you know if you have hepatitis B?
The only way to know if you have hepatitis B is by
a medical exam. There are several blood tests your
health care provider can use to diagnose hepatitis B.
These tests can tell you:
If it is an acute or a chronic infection
If you have recovered from infection
If you are immune to hepatitis B
If you could benefit from vaccination
How is it treated?
Acute hepatitis B: There are no drugs to treat acute
hepatitis B. Doctors usually suggest rest, good
nutrition, and fluids. Some people may need to be in
Chronic hepatitis B: People with chronic hepatitis B
virus infection should receive care from a provider who
has experience treating hepatitis B. These providers
Some internists or family medicine providers
Gastroenterologists (digestive system specialists)
Hepatologists (liver specialists)
If you have chronic hepatitis B, get checked regularly
for signs of liver disease. Discuss treatment with your
health care provider. Not every person with chronic
hepatitis B needs treatment. If you show no signs of
liver damage, your provider will continue to check you
for liver disease.
What can happen if chronic hepatitis B is
Chronic hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result
in long-term health problems. Up to 1 in 4 people with
chronic hepatitis B develop serious liver problems.
Liver damage and scarring (cirrhosis)
If you have hepatitis B
See your health care provider regularly.
Tell current and recent sex partners that you have hepatitis B.
Get plenty of rest.
Eat healthy foods.
Drink plenty of fluids.
Avoid drinking any alcohol. There are ways to help you stop drinking alcohol at: What You Can Do.
Check with your health care provider before taking:
Supplements or herbal medicines
Avoid spreading hepatitis B to others by:
Having safer sex and using condoms during all sexual contact.
Not sharing used or unclean needles and sex toys.
Not donating blood, blood products, or organs.
Cleaning all blood spills – even those that have already dried. Use a mixture of bleach and water
(one part household bleach to 10 parts water). Even dried blood is a risk to others.
Not sharing personal care items like razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers or earrings.
Not sharing glucose-monitoring equipment.
Asking sexual partner(s) and people living in close contact with you to be tested and vaccinated.
How can you avoid hepatitis B?
Getting the vaccine for hepatitis B is the best way to
prevent hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and
effective. It is usually given as 3-4 shots over a 6-month
period. You will not get hepatitis B from the vaccine.
Ask your health care provider if you should get this
vaccine. It is recommended for:
All infants, starting with the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth
Everyone under the age of 19 who has not been vaccinated
People whose sex partners have hepatitis B
Sexually active people who are not in a long-term, faithful relationship
People with a sexually transmitted disease
People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
People who have close household contact with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus
Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or body fluids on the job
People with kidney disease. This includes all those on dialysis and those being considered for dialysis.
Adults with diabetes
Residents and staff of facilities for disabled persons
If you have hepatitis B, your baby has a very high
chance of getting it. Pregnant women should be
checked for hepatitis B by a health care provider. If
you are at risk for hepatitis B, ask your provider about
getting vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe for
pregnant women and their baby. The vaccine can help
your baby if:
It is given to the baby within 12 hours of birth.
The baby finishes the vaccine series. Note: babies should be tested after the last vaccine shot to make sure they are protected from the disease.
Don't breastfeed until you have discussed it with
your health care provider. Avoid breastfeeding if your
nipples are cracking or bleeding until the sores heal.
Until they heal, you can pump your milk to keep up
your milk supply. Do not feed this milk to your baby.
Throw it away.
Hepatitis B is a very serious disease for babies. 9 out of 10 babies infected develop chronic hepatitis B.