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Hepatitis B Risks & Complications

How is hepatitis B transmitted?

Hepatitis B is spread when blood or other bodily fluids that have the hepatitis B virus enter the body of a person who is not infected. Here are the most common ways hepatitis B is spread:

  • Through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sexual intercourse with an infected person
  • By sharing syringes or other drug-injection equipment
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
  • Contact with hepatitis B infected blood or open sores
  • Receiving donated whole blood products prior to 1987

Take Charge of Your Health

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection that is manageable when caught in the first six months. It can be contracted through sexual activities, infected blood or sharing needles. Approximately 70% of cases are symptomless, so get tested if you may have been exposed.

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You are at higher risk of spreading or contracting hepatitis B if you:

  • Have sex with an individual who has hepatitis B
  • Have multiple sex partners
  • Have an STD
  • Inject drugs
  • Cohabit that an individual who has hepatitis B
  • Are a child born to a hepatitis B infected mother
  • Are exposed to blood on the job (for example, in healthcare setting)
  • Received donated whole blood products prior to 1987

You cannot spread or get hepatitis B from:

  • Mosquito or insect bites
  • Nonsexual skin contact
  • Kissing
  • Sharing utensils
  • Sharing drinks
  • Breastfeeding

Can I unknowingly transmit hepatitis B?

Yes, unknowingly spreading hepatitis B is possible since most infected adults (70 percent) do not appear to have any symptoms. The only way to know that you have hepatitis B is to get tested for it.

Is hepatitis B preventable?

Yes, hepatitis B is preventable. The best way to protect yourself from the hepatitis B virus is to get vaccinated against the virus. The vaccine series contains an inactive hepatitis B virus that creates antibodies in your body. As a result, if you ever come in contact with the virus, antibodies will already be in your system to protect you from infection.

Vaccinations protect against hepatitis B infections

In order to prevent contracting or spreading hepatitis B infections, getting vaccinated is encouraged if you are sexually active or an intravenous drug user. If you are not sure that you have been vaccinated for hepatitis B, speak with your healthcare provider. Usually, hepatitis B vaccinations come in three doses given over several months for total immunity and protection from the virus.

What happens if hepatitis B is left untreated?

Acute hepatitis B, if left untreated, can develop into chronic (long-term) hepatitis B, which is more difficult to manage and can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and even death. If you are diagnosed with acute hepatitis B, it can be treated with proper rest, fluids and liver monitoring by a qualified physician or specialist.

Importance of informing your partner you have hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious and contagious liver disease. If you have been diagnosed positive for hepatitis B, it is important to tell your partner. The sooner you inform your partner, the sooner he or she can get tested and seek medical attention if necessary.

If I have had hepatitis B, can I get it again?

No, you cannot get hepatitis B more than once. More than 90 percent of healthy adults who contract the virus will recover naturally from it within the first year. Your body reacts to viruses by developing antibodies to fight them off, so if they are exposed to the same virus again, they destroy it.

Medically Reviewed by on Jun 18, 2019

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