Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). For some, hepatitis B infection is a short-term (acute) illness, but for others it becomes a long-term (chronic) illness, which may lead to liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood, semen, or other body fluids. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth.
Not all people infected with the hepatitis B virus will have symptoms. Adults and children over the age of 5 years are more likely to have symptoms; however, even those those people who don’t show symptoms can still spread the virus to others.
The symptoms usually appear about three months after infection and can range from mild to severe, and may include:
The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine (HepB). HepB is usually given as a series of 3 shots.
The CDC recommends hepatitis B vaccination for:
Those at risk for hepatitis B include:
Pregnant Women and Hepatitis B - When a pregnant woman goes for prenatal care, she will be given a blood test that checks for hepatitis B infection. This is important because women infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during birth. This can be prevented by giving the infant Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG) and the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and then completing the full series of HepB vaccinations. Newborns who become infected with hepatitis B virus have a 90% chance of developing chronic Hepatitis B, which can eventually lead to serious health problems, including liver damage, liver cancer, and even death.