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​Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Acute HBV infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the virus. Acute infection can — but does not always — lead to chronic infection. Chronic HBV infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the virus remains in a person's body. 

HBV is spread when blood or other body fluids from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. People can become infected with the virus during activities such as: 

  • Birth (spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth), 
  • Sex with an infected partner, 
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment, 
  • Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person, 
  • Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person, or 
  • Exposure to blood from needle sticks or other sharp instruments.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

Not all persons infected with HBV develop acute symptoms. Symptoms occur in about 70% of patients, and are more likely to occur in adults than in children. If symptoms occur, they occur on the average of 12 weeks (range of 9 to 21 weeks) after exposure to hepatitis HBV. Even infected persons without symptoms can spread the virus to others. 

Symptoms might include: 

  • Yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of your eyes (jaundice), 
  • Tiredness, 
  • Loss of appetite, 
  • Nausea, 
  • Abdominal discomfort, 
  • Dark urine, 
  • Clay-colored bowel movements, and 
  • Joint pain.  

Risk Factors for Hepatitis B Infection

Although anyone can get HBV, some people are at greater risk, such as those who: 

  • Have sex with an infected person, 
  • Have multiple sex partners, 
  • Have a sexually transmitted disease, 
  • Are men who have sexual contact with other men, 
  • Inject drugs or share needles, syringes, or other drug equipment, 
  • Live with a person who has chronic Hepatitis B, 
  • Are infants born to infected mothers, h. Are exposed to blood on the job, 
  • Are hemodialysis patients, or 
  • Travel to countries with moderate to high rates of Hepatitis B.  

Hepatitis B Treatment

There are no medications available for recently acquired (acute) HBV infection. There are antiviral drugs available for the treatment of chronic HBV infection. People with chronic HBV infection should seek the care or consultation of a doctor with experience treating Hepatitis B disease. 

Hepatitis B Vaccine 

An effective vaccine for Hepatitis B is available. The vaccine is recommended for the following groups of people:

  • All infants;
  • All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated;
  • People at risk for infection by sexual exposure including: people whose sex partners have hepatitis B, sexually active people who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship, people seeking evaluation or treatment for an STD, and men who have sex with men;
  • People at risk for infection by exposure to blood including: people who inject drugs, people who live with a person who has hepatitis B, residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled people, health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job;
  • Hemodialysis patients and predialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients;
  • People with diabetes aged 19–59 years; people with diabetes aged 60 or older should ask their doctor;
  • International travelers to countries where hepatitis B is common;
  • People with hepatitis C;
  • People with chronic liver disease;
  • People with HIV;
  • People who are in jail or prison; and
  • All other people seeking protection from hepatitis B virus infection.

Hepatitis B Testing

The CDC recommends hepatitis B testing for:

  • People born in countries with 2% or higher HBV prevalence;
  • Men who have sex with men;
  • People who inject drugs;
  • People with HIV;
  • Household and sexual contacts of people with hepatitis B;
  • People requiring immunosuppressive therapy;
  • People with end-stage renal disease (including hemodialysis patients);
  • People with hepatitis C;
  • People with elevated ALT levels;
  • Pregnant women; and
  • Infants born to HBV-infected mothers.

Hepatitis B Information for Health Care Providers

General Information about Hepatitis B

Educational Resources for Providers