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Hepatitis B

What is it?

  • It’s a virus.
  • The virus that causes Hepatitis B affects your liver.
  • Both men and women can get it.
  • It can also be called HBV, which stands for Hepatitis B Virus.
  • There is a vaccine to prevent it, and most babies get this vaccine as part of their normal care.

How common is it?

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.25 million people in the United States have it.
  • Many people get a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B now, so it’s not as common as it used to be.
  • 100,000 people in the United States become infected each year and 5,000 die from Hepatitis B each year.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • You are more likely to get Hepatitis B if:
    • You have sex with multiple partners
    • You don’t use condoms
    • You share needles, razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or other items that can pierce your skin or have blood on them
    • People who work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare settings are also more likely to get Hepatitis B because they come in contact with body fluids a lot. These people are required to get the Hepatitis B vaccine before they can work.

How do you get it?

  • Hepatitis B can live and be passed through any body fluids, but it’s mostly spread through blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.
  • You can get Hepatitis B by having ANY type of sex: vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don’t use it the entire time.
  • Since the virus can live in blood, you can also get it by sharing needles, nail clippers, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has it.
  • The virus can pass from mother to baby during childbirth.
  • You do not get Hepatitis B from:
    • Kissing on the cheek or lips
    • Coughing or sneezing
    • Hugging or holding hands

How do I know if I have it?

  • Many people with Hepatitis B have NO SYMPTOMS, or just feel like they have the flu.
    • You can still give the virus to other people, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
  • If you do get symptoms, they can begin between six weeks to six months, and most people start getting symptoms around three months after being infected.
  • Symptoms can include:
    • Yellow skin or eyes
    • Having no appetite – you don’t feel hungry and you don’t want to eat
    • Feeling very tired or having no energy
    • Brown and dark-colored pee
    • Pain in your belly, muscles, or joints
    • Gray or light-colored stools
    • Feeling sick to your stomach and/or throwing up
    • Having diarrhea

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • There is no cure for Hepatitis B but, in some people, it goes away on its own. Others who get the virus can have it for the rest of their lives.
  • Most people who get Hepatitis B recover from the illness and have no symptoms after about six months.
  • If you don’t recover from the illness, a doctor will come up with a treatment plan that includes:
    • Medicine for your liver
    • Eating healthy food
    • Exercising
    • Not drinking alcohol
    • Regularly checking your liver to make sure it’s working normally
  • See a doctor and get treated as early as possible to prevent serious health problems.

What can happen if I don’t get treatment?

  • Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can pass the virus to other people.
  • Permanent liver disease, including cancer of your liver
  • Increases your chance of getting HIV, if you are exposed to it
  • Death from damage to your liver

How can I keep from getting it?

  • Get the vaccine.
    • Most people get the vaccine when they are babies, but if you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to a doctor about getting it now.
    • It’s given in three shots, and you have to get all three for the vaccine to work best
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has gotten the Hepatitis B vaccine.
    • If your partner has Hepatitis B, talk to a doctor to find out if you should consider updating your vaccine.
  • Don’t share needles, syringes, razors, toothbrushes, or any other items that pierce your skin or could have blood on them.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have Hepatitis B, don’t have sex or other close contact (like kissing) until you get tested and a doctor says it’s ok.
  • You can infect other people with Hepatitis B even if you have no symptoms and don’t know you have it. Find out if you have been given the vaccine. If not, get tested for Hepatitis B to make sure you don’t have it and then get the vaccine.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Don’t share needles, syringes, razors, toothbrushes, or any other items that pierce your skin or could have blood on them.
  • If you find out you have Hepatitis B, tell all of your current and past partners, since they could have it too.
  • If you have Hepatitis B and you are pregnant, tell your doctor. The virus can pass from mother to baby during birth, and your baby will need special treatment right after birth to keep from getting the infection.

How do I get tested for it?

  • A doctor will test a small sample of your blood for the virus.
    • If you think you have Hepatitis B, your doctor will also feel around your liver to check if it’s swollen and tender.
  • You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors’ offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics or health departments.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you think you have Hepatitis B, or think you have been exposed to Hepatitis B, see a doctor and get tested.
    • If you’ve already had the vaccine, ask your doctor if you should consider updating it by getting a booster vaccine.
  • For women:
    • If you are pregnant, you should get tested at your first prenatal visit. If your doctor thinks you are at higher risk for getting Hepatitis B, they may recommend getting tested again during your third trimester.

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