Hepatitis B



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Information on this page taken directly from CDC data.

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a serious disease, responsible for an estimated 4000 to 5000 deaths each year in the United States due to cirrhosis and liver cancer.  HBV vaccine prevents Hepatitis B disease and its serious consequences. 

Signs & Symptoms

    About 30% of persons have no signs or symptoms.  Signs and symptoms are less common in children than adults.

    Symptoms of HBV include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and joint pain.


Long Term Effects Without Vaccination

    Chronic infection occurs in 90% of infants infected at birth; 30% of children infected at age 1-5 years; and 6% of persons infected after age 5 years.  Death from chronic liver disease occurs in 15-25% of chronically infected persons.



    Transmission of HBV occurs when blood or body fluids from an infected person enters the body of a person who is no immune.

    HBV is spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom, sharing needles or "works" when "shooting" drugs, through needlesticks or sharps exposures on the job, or from an infected mother to her baby during birth.

    Persons at risk for HBV infection might also be at risk for infection with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) or HIV.


Risk Groups

    Persons with multiple sex partners or diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease

    Men who have sex with men

    Sex contact of infected persons

    Injection drug users

    Household contacts of chronically infected persons

    Infants born to infected mothers

    Infants/children of immigrants from areas with high rates of HBV infection

    Health care and public safety workers

    Hemodialysis patients



    Hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection.

    If you are having sex, but not with one steady partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time you have sex.

    If you are pregnant, you should get a blood test for hepatitis B; infants born to HBV infected mothers should be given H-BIG and vaccine within 12 hours after birth.

    Do not shoot drugs; if you shoot drugs, stop and get into a treatment program; if you can't stop, never share needles, syringes, water, or "works", and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.

    Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them (razors, toothbrushes).

    Consider the risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing.  You might get infected if the tool have someone else's blood on them or if the artist or piercer does not follow good health practices.

    If you have or had hepatitis B, do not donate blood, organs, or tissue.

    If you are a health care or public safety worker, get vaccinated against hepatitis B, and always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps.


Vaccine Recommendations

    Hepatitis B vaccine available since 1982

    Routine vaccination of 0-18 year olds

    Vaccination of risk groups of all ages


Treatment and Medical Management

    HBV infected persons should be evaluated by their doctor for liver disease.

    Alpha Interferon and lamivudine are two drugs licensed for the treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis B.  These drugs are effective in up to 40% of patients.

    These drugs should not be used by pregnant women.

    Drinking alcohol can make your liver disease worse.


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