U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Protect Yourself from Hepatitis B

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Hepatitis B is a virus that 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.

Some people who get hepatitis B can get rid of the virus. Others develop chronic hepatitis B – a lifelong infection that can lead to liver disease and even death.

To protect yourself and your family from hepatitis B:

  • Make sure your children get the hepatitis B vaccine (shot). And ask your doctor if you need it.
  • Get tested for hepatitis B if you are pregnant or if you are at risk for infection.
  • Be safe when you travel to countries where hepatitis B is common.
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The Basics: Vaccine (Shot)

Do I need the hepatitis B vaccine (shot)?
Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for:

  • All babies at birth
  • 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.

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The Basics: Testing

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 hepatitis B
  • Have sex with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Get kidney dialysis treatments
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The Basics: Treatment

Can hepatitis B be treated?
Yes. The treatment for hepatitis B depends on the type of infection. The 2 types of hepatitis B infection are acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

Acute hepatitis B
When people first get infected with hepatitis B, it's called acute hepatitis B. Many people with acute hepatitis B don't have any symptoms and don't need treatment. Some people have mild symptoms that might feel like the flu.

Only a few people with acute hepatitis B get very sick and need to go to the hospital. For many people, acute hepatitis goes away by itself within 6 months.

Children under age 6 who get acute hepatitis B are at high risk for developing chronic hepatitis. That's why the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all babies.

Chronic hepatitis B
Some people who get acute hepatitis B will develop a chronic hepatitis B infection. This means the infection will never go away. People with chronic hepatitis B may need to take medicine to help stop the virus from causing liver damage.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Get the Shot

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

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.

Use this locator tool to find a health center where you can get the hepatitis B vaccine.

People who’ve had hepatitis B in the past and recovered don’t need to get the vaccine.

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

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

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, health insurance plans must cover:

  • 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.

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Take Action: Get Tested

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 hepatitis B
  • Have sex with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Get kidney dialysis treatments

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.

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Take Action: Travel Safely

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:

Learn more.
To find out more about hepatitis B symptoms, testing, and treatment, check out these questions and answers about hepatitis B.

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