Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a vaccine preventable blood borne virus (BBV) and a sexually transmissible infection (STI).

  • Hepatitis B is the most common liver virus in the world. It is major global health issue and it is estimated that nearly 260 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B.
  • You can protect yourself against hepatitis B with a vaccine. The vaccine is safe and works well.
  • You can take medicine to take care of your chronic hepatitis B. You can live well with chronic hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a virus that causes damage to your liver. It can be chronic, which means having it your whole life.

How do you get hepatitis B?
The most common time people get hepatitis B is early in life. Babies can get hepatitis B from their mother. This can happen before or during birth.

There are ways to stop hepatitis B from spreading from mother to child. When the baby is born they should get two injections. Your baby has these within the first 12 hours. One injection contains immunoglobulin. These are antibodies that help the body fight the virus. The other injection is baby’s first hepatitis B vaccine. All babies get this vaccine, even if their mother doesn’t have hepatitis B. They’ll also get hepatitis B vaccines over the next 6 months. Together this can protect the baby against the virus.

Some women have a high level of the virus in their body while they are pregnant. This means they are more likely to pass it on to their baby. You can take a test for this. If you have a high level of hepatitis B your doctor can give you medicine. The medicine will make it less likely that you pass the virus onto your baby. It is safe to take while you are pregnant.

Some other ways you can get hepatitis B are:

  • having vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom
  • tattooing or body piercing with unclean equipment
  • medical procedures with unclean equipment
  • sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment, including spoons
  • sharing toothbrushes, razors or nail files
  • having cuts or sores that are uncovered.

You cannot get hepatitis B through:

  • hugging or kissing
  • sharing food and eating utensils
  • eating food made by someone with hepatitis B
  • insect or animal bites, including mosquitoes
  • sharing bathrooms, showers or toilets
  • sneezing or coughing.

What happens if you get hepatitis B?

If you get hepatitis B, you could get an acute or chronic illness.

Acute hepatitis B means the virus might make you sick for a short time but then you get better. Some people with acute hepatitis B naturally get rid of the virus.

Chronic hepatitis B means you will have the virus for life. You may not feel sick, but over time it could damage your liver so it does not work well. You have to wait six months to find out if your acute hepatitis B becomes chronic

If you have chronic hepatitis B, it is very important that you see your doctor every 6 to 12 months. The doctor will check your liver so you can take medicine if you need it.

If you don’t have hepatitis B, you can get a vaccine from your doctor. This will protect you against it in the future.

To find out if you have hepatitis B, your doctor will need to do a blood test. There are many types of tests for hepatitis B. You can tell your doctor about this tool to help them find the right test for you.

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