Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that lives in your blood and body fluids. The virus can hurt your liver.

There are two types:

  • Acute hepatitis B is when you first get the virus. Sometimes your body can fight off the virus. This means you will no longer have it.
  • Chronic hepatitis B is when your body cannot fight off the virus. The virus stays in your body.
    • About 20 out of 100 people with this will develop liver problems.
  • Hepatitis B is common. About 1.2 million people in the United States have it.
  • Many people do not know they have it because they do not feel sick.
    • About 40,000 people in the United States get hepatitis B each year.
    • Every year about 3,000 people die because the virus hurts their liver.

People may have or feel:

  • Fever 
  • Tired
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Upset stomach/throwing up
  • No appetite

It is spead by:

  • Sharing used needles or other drug injection supplies
    • This includes tattoo and body-piercing needles.
  • Having sex without a condom
  • Touching infected blood (even in amounts too small to see)
  • Touching open sores of someone who has the virus
  • From a mother to her baby during pregnancy

People at risk are:

  • People who have sex with someone who has the virus
  • People who have many sex partners
  • Drug users who share needles and syringes to inject drugs into their bodies
  • Paramedics, emergency responders, and health care workers
  • People who are on dialysis for their kidneys

You cannot get hepatitis B by:

  • Hugging, kissing, or shaking hands
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Sharing forks, spoons, or glasses

Acute hepatitis B is treated by:

  • Rest 
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Medicine, if needed

Chronic hepatitis B is treated by:

  • Routine check-ups to make sure your liver function is not getting worse
  • Medicine, if needed

You can prevent it by:

  • Getting vaccinated
    • Babies should get vaccinated when they are born
    • For adults, the vaccination is a series of three shots in your arm over six months
  • Having safe sex by using condoms
  • Wearing gloves, gown, and/or mask if you might touch blood or body fluids



Last reviewed: 
July 2017

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