Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus is present in blood and some bodily fluids and infects the liver, causing an inflammation called hepatitis. About one in 20 Americans have been infected with the Hepatitis B virus at some time in their lives. Worldwide, Hepatitis B is much more common: about one third of the world population has been infected with the virus.

In about 6% of people who contract the disease as adults, Hepatitis B will develop into chronic hepatitis (liver disease) which can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver failure, and liver cancer. Hepatitis B can also be passed from a pregnant mother to her newborn baby. Babies who contract the virus from their mothers at birth have a 90% chance of developing chronic liver disease.


Hepatitis B is transmitted by exposure to infected blood or bodily fluids during sexual contact, including intercourse, anal sex, and oral sex. The virus can also be spread in non-sexual ways, including unclean needles (tattoo needles or syringes), and sharing personal items that may have blood on them, especially razors and toothbrushes.


A vaccine has been developed for Hepatitis B and is recommended by health authorities for all newborns at birth, children up to 18 years old, people who engage in activities that put them at risk for Hepatitis B infection (such as sex or anal sex outside a monogamous relationship, IV drug use, or sex with a partner infected with Hepatitis B), and anyone who wishes to be protected from infection.

There is no proof that latex condoms protect against Hepatitis B infection, but it is likely that they reduce the chance of contracting the virus if used correctly.

Avoid sharing personal care items that may have blood on them, including toothbrushes and razors, to prevent transmission of Hepatitis B.


Hepatitis B does not show symptoms in about 30% of people who are infected. People who do experience symptoms may experience:

• Fatigue
• Abdominal pain
• Loss of appetite
• Joint pain
• Mild fever
• Dark urine
• Nausea and vomiting
• Jaundice


A health care professional can diagnose Hepatitis B with a blood test.


There is no treatment for acute (short-term) Hepatitis B. The infection usually goes away on its own as the immune system fights the disease. If the infection develops into chronic (lifelong) liver disease, antiviral drugs may be prescribed for treatment.

For More Information: 

The CDC STD fact sheets are a good source of current, accurate information about STDs.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for medical advice. If you have any symptoms that you suspect may indicate an STD or other infection, please consult a doctor or medical professional. A good resource for STD treatment and family planning services is http://www.plannedparenthood.org.
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