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Hepatitis B

HBV vaccine

You can keep from getting HBV by getting the HBV vaccine. All newborns and children younger than 18 who have not been vaccinated need the HBV vaccine. Adults at high risk of HBV also need the vaccine. The vaccine is safe and can protect you for life. Ask your doctor if you need the HBV vaccine. You also can take these steps to prevent the spread of HBV:
  • Use a condom during sex.
  • Do not share drug needles.
  • Wear gloves if you need to touch somebody else's blood.
  • Don't share personal items like toothbrushes, razors, or nail clippers.
  • Make sure tattoos or body piercings you get are done with sterile tools.

Hepatitis (HEP-uh-TEYE-tuhss) B is a liver disease. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus, or HBV. Hepatitis that does not get better can cause scarring of the liver, liver cancer, or even death. People can get HBV through contact with infected blood or body fluids. You can get HBV by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person or by being born to a mother with HBV. HBV infection is much more likely to become a life-long infection in people who get it at birth or in early childhood.

As a group, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of HBV infection in the United States. People with HBV can spread the disease, and can get liver damage or cancer. In fact, the risk of liver cancer is 100 times higher in people with HBV infection.

If you get HBV, you may feel like you have the flu. But most people with HBV have no symptoms. So, you can have HBV (and be spreading the virus) and not know it. Only a blood test can tell for sure if you have HBV. If you have HBV in your blood, you can give hepatitis B to your baby. Ask your doctor to be tested for HBV early in your pregnancy.

Hepatitis B has no cure. But treatment for long-lasting hepatitis B can slow or stop the virus from harming the liver. If hepatitis B causes liver failure, a liver transplant may be needed. This involves replacing the failed liver with a healthy one from a donor.

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More information on Hepatitis B

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Viral Hepatitis Fact Sheet - This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about viral hepatitis and how the virus spreads. It also has information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hepatitis.

Explore other publications and websites

  • For Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer Patients (Copyright © Asian Liver Center at Stanford University) External Website Policy - This fact sheet explains why Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians need to be aware of hepatitis B. It discusses the high incidence of hepatitis B among these populations, how hepatitis is transmitted, why it often goes undiagnosed, and how it is treated. It encourages Asians to get tested and vaccinated, and to seek help to prevent liver damage from hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C Prevention Programs (Copyright © Immunization Action Coalition) External Website Policy - This website talks about programs across the United States that work to prevent hepatitis A, B, or C in people who are at risk for infection. The site also features general information on hepatitis B and hepatitis A vaccination, special topics related to viral hepatitis, and links to other organizations and resources.
  • Viral Hepatitis - This publication explains the different types of hepatitis and how they are spread. You can also read the answers to some frequently asked questions and get information on how common hepatitis is.
  • What I Need to Know About Hepatitis B - Hepatitis B is common in Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian populations. This easy-to-read publication provides an introduction to the disease’s risk factors, symptoms, and treatments.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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