Hepatitis B (HBV)

40,000 people in the US get HBV every year

What is Hepatitis B and how do you get it?

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) is a serious disease that attacks the liver. The HBV can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. HBV is spread when blood or body fluids from an infected person enter the body of a person who is not immune to HBV. HBV is spread in the same ways that HIV is spread: by having unprotected sex with someone who has the virus; by sharing needles (shooting drugs; using dirty needles for piercing or tattooing); by coming in contact with infected blood (fighting).

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Many people have little or no symptoms that can show up 1-9 months after contact with the HBV. Symptoms include stomach pain, flu-like symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea/throwing up, or joint pain that don’t go away, tiredness, and jaundice (yellow skin).

Do I need to get treated for Hepatitis B?

HBV is a virus. It sometimes goes away by itself, but it can become serious and lead to liver damage. Someone without symptoms can still give HBV to others.

What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?

There are some medicines used to treat HBV, but they do not work for everyone. Some people get sick right away, while others may live years without symptoms. It can cause permanent liver damage and a mother can give it to her unborn child. 15 - 25% of people with HBV will die from chronic liver disease. Stay away from alcohol because it can further damage your liver. Talk with your doctor before taking prescription medication, over the counter drugs, vitamins or nutritional supplements to make sure they won’t hurt your liver.

How do I prevent getting or spreading Hepatitis B?

HBV cannot be cured, but it can be prevented. The HBV vaccine helps prevent you from getting the virus. Three shots are given over a period of months. Once you have all three shots you should be protected from HBV.

  • It is very contagious and people with HBV should alert their partners and always use condoms when having sex
  • Do not shoot drugs, but if you do shoot drugs never share drugs, needles, syringes, water or "works".
  • Always clean your works
  • Do not share personal care items like toothbrushes or razors.
  • Make sure that the tattoo artist or piercer uses brand new needles, wears latex gloves and uses good health practices