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Viral Hepatitis B Information

Topics covered on this page

What is hepatitis B?
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
How is hepatitis B virus spread?
Can I donate blood if I have had any type of viral hepatitis?
How long can HBV survive outside the body?
For how long is hepatitis B vaccine effective?
Are booster doses of hepatitis B vaccine needed?
What does the term "hepatitis B carrier" mean?
If my hepatitis B vaccination series is interrupted, do I have to start over?
What is the treatment for chronic hepatitis B?
Who is at risk?
How great is your risk for hepatitis B?
How do you get hepatitis B?
How do you know if you have hepatitis B?
Is there a cure for hepatitis B?
If you are pregnant, should you worry about hepatitis B?
Who should get vaccinated?
What is the rationale for recommending the hepatitis B
vaccination of children and other groups mentioned above?
Who should get post-vaccination testing?

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:

tiredness
loss of appetite
nausea
abdominal discomfort
dark urine
clay-colored bowel movements
yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
How is hepatitis B virus spread?

HBV is spread when blood or body fluids from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. For example, HBV is spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom (the efficacy of latex condoms in preventing infection with HBV is unknown, but their proper use might reduce transmission), by sharing drugs, needles, or "works" when "shooting" drugs, through needlesticks or sharps exposures on the job, or from an infected mother to her baby during birth.

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.

For how long is hepatitis B vaccine effective?

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.

What is the treatment for chronic hepatitis B?

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

have sex with someone infected with HBV
have sex with more than one partner
shoot drugs
are a man and have sex with a man
live in the same house with someone who has lifelong HBV infection
have a job that involves contact with human blood
are a patient or work in a home for the developmentally disabled
have hemophilia
travel to areas where hepatitis B is common (view map)
Your risk is also higher if your parents were born in Southeast Asia, Africa, the Amazon Basin in South America, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East.

If you are at risk for HBV infection, ask your health care provider about hepatitis B vaccine.

How do you get hepatitis B?

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.

Hepatitis B is not spread through food or water or by casual contact.

How do you know if you have hepatitis B?

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 have symptoms

your eyes or skin may turn yellow
you may lose your appetite
you may have nausea. vomiting, fever, stomach or joint pain
you may feel extremely tired and not be able to work for weeks or months
 Is there a cure for hepatitis B?

There are medications available to treat long-lasting (chronic) HBV-infection. These work for some people, but there is no cure for hepatitis B when you first get it. That is why prevention is so important. Hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection against HBV. Three doses are commonly needed for complete protection.

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.

All pregnant women should be tested for HBV early in their pregnancy. If the blood test is positive, the baby should receive vaccine along with another shot, hepatitis B immune globulin (called HBIG), at birth. The second dose of vaccine should be given at 1-2 months of age and the third dose at 6 months of age.

Who should get vaccinated?

All babies, at birth
All children 0-18 years of age who have not been vaccinated
Persons of any age whose behavior puts them at high risk for HBV infection
Persons whose jobs expose them to human blood.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/b/faqb.htm

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