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.
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.
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. Learn why the hepatitis B test is important for pregnant women [PDF - 859 KB].
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 certain countries in Asia, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean
- 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
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.