Viral Hepatitis B Information
Topics covered on this page
What is hepatitis B?
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.
What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?
The symptoms of acute (newly acquired) hepatitis A, B and C are the same. Symptoms occur more often in adults than in children. If symptoms occur, they might include:
Can I donate blood if I have had any type of viral hepatitis?
If you had any type of viral hepatitis since age 11, you are not eligible to donate blood. In addition, if you ever tested positive for hepatitis B or hepatitis C, at any age, you are not eligible to donate, even if you were never sick or jaundiced from the infection.
How long can HBV survive outside the body?
HBV can survive outside the body at least 7 days and still be capable of transmitting infecion.
Long-term studies of healthy adults and children indicate that hepatitis B vaccine protects against chronic HBV infection for at least 15 years, even though antibody levels might decline below detectable levels.
Are booster doses of hepatitis B vaccine needed?
No, booster doses of hepatitis B vaccine are not recommended routinely. Data show that vaccine-induced hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) levels might decline over time; however, immune memory (anamnestic anti-HBs response) remains intact indefinitely following immunization. People with declining antibody levels are still protected against clinical illness and chronic disease.
What does the term "hepatitis B carrier" mean?
“Hepatitis B carrier” is a term that is sometimes used to indicate people who have chronic (long-term) infection with HBV. If infected, two percent to 6% of persons over 5 years of age; 30% of children 1-5 years of age; and up to 90% of infants develop chronic infection. Persons with chronic infection can infect others and are at increased risk of serious liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer. In the United States, an estimated 1.25 million people are chronically infected with HBV.
If my hepatitis B vaccination series is interrupted, do I have to start over?
No. If the vaccination series is interrupted, resume with the next dose in the series.
There are three drugs licensed for the treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis B: Adefovir dipivoxil, alpha interferon, and lamivudine.
Who is at risk?
In 2001, an estimated 78,000 persons in the U.S. were infected with HBV. People of all ages get hepatitis B and about 5,000 die per year of sickness caused by HBV.
How great is your risk for hepatitis B?
One out of 20 people in the United States will get infected with HBV some time during their lives. Your risk is higher if you
You get hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person; for example, you can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person. A baby can get hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.
You may have hepatitis B (and be spreading the disease) and not know it; sometimes a person with HBV infection has no symptoms at all. Only a blood test can tell for sure.
If you are pregnant, should you worry about hepatitis B?
If you have HBV in your blood, you can give hepatitis B to your baby. Babies who get HBV at birth may have the virus for the rest of their lives, can spread the disease, and can get cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
Who should get vaccinated?
All babies, at birth
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