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Hepatitis B

Learn about hepatitis B, who is at risk, and how it spreads.

About hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection in the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus.

Up to 1 out of 10 adults who get infected with hepatitis B will develop an infection that does not go away (chronic infection).

The younger you are when you get hepatitis B, the higher the chance of having a chronic infection. For example, more than 9 out of 10 babies who are infected with hepatitis B will have a chronic infection.

If you have a chronic hepatitis B infection, you have it forever. You can spread it to others, even if you do not look or feel sick.

A chronic hepatitis B infection can lead to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and death.

Around the world each year, about 600,000 people die from hepatitis B-related disease.

Learn more about hepatitis B.

Who is most at risk?

Anyone can get hepatitis B. Almost 1 out of 3 people who have it do not have any risk factors.

The following factors can put you at highest risk of hepatitis B:

  • The person who gave birth to you had hepatitis B when you were born.
  • You live with someone who has a chronic hepatitis B infection.
  • You are on dialysis.
  • You live in or travel to countries with high rates of hepatitis B infection.
  • You have a lifestyle that puts you at risk of the infection (such as having unprotected sex or sharing needles).

How it spreads

Hepatitis B spreads by having contact with the blood and body fluids of a person who is infected. It can spread through:

  • childbirth (if the person giving birth is infected)
  • shared needles, razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes
  • contact with equipment that is not cleaned properly (such as needles used for tattoos, body piercings, or acupuncture)
  • sex
  • human bites or open sores
Current as of: June 30, 2023
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
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