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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 over the age of 30 than in adults under 30 and 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),
  • Fever,
  • Tiredness,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • 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:

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;
  • All adults aged 19 through 59 years;
  • Adults aged 60 and older with risk factors for Hepatitis B:
    • 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 exposed to blood on the job,
    • Are incarcerated in prison, jail or other detention settings,
    • Have an HIV infection,
    • Have a Hepatitis C infection or history of Hepatitis C infection,
    • Are hemodialysis patients, 
    • Have elevated liver enzymes, or
    • Travel to countries with moderate to high rates of Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B Testing

The CDC recommends hepatitis B testing for:

  • All adults at least once in their lifetime;
  • Infants born to an infected mother;
  • Pregnant people during each pregnancy;
  • Periodic testing for individuals with a risk factor for Hepatitis B infection:

Where Can I Get Tested?

To find a testing site near you use the Hepatitis Provider Map linked below or reach out to your primary care provider.

HIV and Viral Hepatitis Service Providers

Where Can I Get Vaccinated?

To find a vaccination site near you use the map linked below or reach out to your primary care provider.

HIV and Viral Hepatitis Service Providers

Hepatitis B Information for Health Care Providers

General Information about Hepatitis B

Educational Resources for Providers