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Protect Yourself from Hepatitis B

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Content last updated on:
December 17, 2013

The Basics

The Hepatitis B virus is spread from person to person through blood, semen (cum), and fluids from the vagina. A mother with Hepatitis B can also spread 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 the Hepatitis B vaccine (shot).
  • Get tested for Hepatitis B if you may already have it.
  • Be safe when you travel to countries where Hepatitis B is common.

Do I need to get the Hepatitis B vaccine (shot)?
The best way to protect against Hepatitis B is to get 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 getting Hepatitis B

You are at higher risk for getting Hepatitis B as an adult if you:

  • Have had sex with more than one partner in the last 6 months
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Use drugs with needles
  • Live with someone who has a chronic (long-term) Hepatitis B infection
  • Come in contact with blood at your job (like if you are a nurse at a hospital)
  • Travel in areas where Hepatitis B is common

If you are an adult and 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.

Should I get tested for Hepatitis B?
All pregnant women need to get tested for Hepatitis B at their first prenatal doctor visit.

Your doctor or nurse may also recommend testing if you are at higher risk for having Hepatitis B. People are at higher risk if they or their parents are from:

  • Asia
  • The Pacific Islands
  • Parts of Africa

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.

Can Hepatitis B be treated?
The treatment for Hepatitis B depends on which type of infection it is – 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 will develop chronic Hepatitis B. This is an infection that never goes away. There are medicines to help fight the infection.

Children under age 6 who get 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 from Hepatitis B.

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

Find out more about who needs the Hepatitis B vaccine.

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 to 4 shots.

The Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for anyone under age 19 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 the Hepatitis B vaccine for some people. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get the shots at no cost to you.

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 shots.

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

Get tested for Hepatitis B if you may have a chronic infection.
Many people were infected with Hepatitis B as a baby or child before the vaccine was available.

People are at higher risk if they or their parents are from:

  • Asia
  • The Pacific Islands
  • Parts of Africa

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.

Travel smart.
There are some parts of the world where Hepatitis B is very common. 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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