Hepatitis B is a liver infection. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus can be spread:
People who handle blood may become infected with the virus. For example, health care workers may get the virus when they treat an infected person.
A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during delivery. If you are pregnant and think you may have been exposed to hepatitis B, get tested. If you have the virus, your baby can get shots to help prevent getting the virus.
You can't get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.
Most adults who get hepatitis B have it for a short time and then get better. This is the acute form of the disease. Sometimes the disease lasts a long time. This is the chronic form. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can damage your liver.
After you have had hepatitis B and recovered, you will not get it again.
Most people who get hepatitis B do not have symptoms. If you have symptoms, they usually start to go away in 2 to 3 weeks. Symptoms may include:
You can get hepatitis B or give it to other people both before and after you have symptoms.
Ask your doctor if you need the hepatitis B vaccine. People who may need it include those who inject drugs, have many sex partners, have certain health conditions, or are likely to be exposed to body fluids (such as health care workers). Your doctor may also recommend the vaccine if you're travelling to areas of the world where hepatitis B is common.
To avoid spreading hepatitis B if you have it or to avoid getting it:
If you think you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, talk to your doctor. Getting a shot of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) and the first of three shots of hepatitis B vaccine may help prevent the disease.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: July 30, 2018
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
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