Alberta Health Services
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.
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:
Hepatitis B spreads by having contact with the blood and body fluids of a person who is infected. It can spread through:
Symptoms include poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting (throwing up), and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). Some people do not have any symptoms.
Treatment for hepatitis B infection depends on how active the virus is and if you are at risk for liver damage. Learn more about hepatitis B treatments and what you can do to care for yourself at home.
Protection against hepatitis B is part of Alberta’s routine immunization schedule. People who travel may be offered other vaccines to protect against hepatitis B.
In addition to getting the hepatitis B vaccine, you can prevent the spread of hepatitis B by practising safer sex, wearing gloves if you have to touch blood, and by not sharing needles, razors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes.
Learn more about how to avoid spreading hepatitis B.
If you have contact with the hepatitis B virus and are not immunized, you may get hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG). HBIG can help prevent hepatitis B.
Immune globulins give quick, short-term protection. For long-term protection, you need a vaccine. When you get HBIG, you also start a hepatitis B vaccine series.
Learn more about HBIG.
To find out if you need a hepatitis B vaccine for travel and when you need it:
It is best to contact a private travel clinic, your doctor, or your pharmacist at least 6 weeks before you travel.
Contact your local public health or community health centre to find out if you need any routine immunizations.