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Protect Yourself from Hepatitis B

The Basics

The hepatitis B virus spreads from person to person through blood, semen (cum), and fluids from the vagina. A mother with hepatitis B can also pass it to her baby at birth. In some cases, the hepatitis B virus can lead to liver disease and may even cause death.

To protect yourself from hepatitis B:

  • Get tested for hepatitis B if you are at risk for infection.
  • Get the hepatitis B vaccine (shot) if you need it.
  • Be safe when you travel to countries where hepatitis B is common.

Get answers to common questions about hepatitis B.

Do I need to get tested for hepatitis B?
All pregnant women need to get tested for hepatitis B at their first prenatal doctor visit. See why the hepatitis B test is important for pregnant women.

Other people need to get tested if they are at risk for hepatitis B. You are at risk if you:

  • Were born in a place where hepatitis B is common, like Asia or Africa
  • Have parents who were born in a place where hepatitis B is common
  • Are HIV-positive
  • Use drugs with needles
  • Live with someone who has chronic hepatitis B
  • Have sex with someone who has chronic hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men

Not everyone with the hepatitis B virus will have symptoms. Many people don’t know they have hepatitis B because they don’t look or feel sick. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor.

Do I need to get the hepatitis B vaccine (shot)?
The best protection against hepatitis B is the hepatitis B vaccine. This vaccine is recommended for:

  • All babies
  • Anyone under age 19 who didn’t get the shots as a baby
  • Adults who are at risk for hepatitis B

If you think you might be at risk for hepatitis B, talk with your doctor or nurse about getting the vaccine. Find out more about who needs to get the hepatitis B vaccine.

Can hepatitis B be treated?
The treatment for hepatitis B depends on which type of infection it is. A hepatitis B infection can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

Acute hepatitis B
When people first get infected with hepatitis B, they may not know they have it. That’s because not everyone gets symptoms.

If a person does have symptoms, it’s called acute hepatitis. Acute hepatitis often goes away by itself, but doctors will watch to make sure people get better. There’s no treatment for acute hepatitis.

Chronic hepatitis B
Some people who get infected with hepatitis B will develop a chronic infection. This infection will never go away, but there are medicines to help treat it.

Children under age 6 who get infected with hepatitis B are at high risk for developing chronic hepatitis. Most older kids and adults who get hepatitis B won’t develop a chronic infection.

Take Action!

Take Action!

Take these steps to help protect yourself and your children from hepatitis B.

Get tested for hepatitis B if you are at risk.
You are at risk for having hepatitis B if you:

  • Were born in a place where hepatitis B is common, like Asia or Africa
  • Have parents who were born in a place where hepatitis B is common
  • Are HIV-positive
  • Use drugs with needles
  • Live with someone who has chronic hepatitis B
  • Have sex with someone who has chronic hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men

Use this tool to see if you may need to get tested for hepatitis B. You can print out the results and take them with you to your next checkup.

Get the hepatitis B vaccine (shot).
If you haven’t gotten the hepatitis B vaccine and you think you might be at risk for hepatitis B, talk with your doctor or nurse about getting the shot.

Does my child need the hepatitis B vaccine?
The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all babies at birth. It’s usually given as a series of 3 or 4 shots.

The hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for children and teens who didn’t get the shots as a baby. Read more about getting your child’s shots on schedule.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers:

  • Hepatitis B testing for all pregnant women at their first prenatal visit 
  • Hepatitis B shots for some people who are at risk

If you have Medicare or private insurance, check to find out what’s included in your plan. Ask about the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t have insurance, you still may be able to get free or low-cost services.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

Travel smart.
Hepatitis B is very common in some parts of the world. If you are planning a trip to an area where lots of people have hepatitis B, follow some basic steps for safe travel:

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