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    What is Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. Learn about transmission, vaccination, symptoms, and prevention.

    Hepatitis B Questions and Answers for the Public

    Index of Questions

    Hepatitis B Overview

    What is hepatitis?

    Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can all cause hepatitis. However, hepatitis is often caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A virus, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus.

    What is the difference between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are liver infections caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they are spread in different ways and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A is usually a short-term infection. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also begin as short-term infections but in some people, the virus remains in the body and causes chronic, or lifelong, infection. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B; however, no vaccine is available for hepatitis C.

    The page “What is viral hepatitis?” explains in detail the differences between hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

    What is hepatitis B?

    Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. Some people with hepatitis B are sick for only a few weeks (known as “acute” infection), but for others, the disease progresses to a serious, lifelong illness known as chronic hepatitis B.

    What is acute (short-term) hepatitis B?

    Acute hepatitis B is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis B virus. Some people with acute hepatitis B have no symptoms at all or only mild illness. For others, acute hepatitis B causes a more severe illness that requires hospitalization.

    What is chronic (long-term) hepatitis B?

    Some people, especially those who get infected in adulthood, are able to clear the virus from their bodies without treatment. For other people, acute hepatitis B leads to life-long infection known as chronic hepatitis B. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.

    Who is most likely to get chronic (long-term) hepatitis B?

    Age plays a role in whether hepatitis B will become chronic. The younger a person is when infected with the hepatitis B virus, the greater the chance of developing chronic infection. About 9 in 10 infants who become infected go on to develop life-long, chronic infection. The risk goes down as a child gets older. About one in three children who get infected before age 6 will develop chronic hepatitis B. By contrast, almost all older children (those aged ≥6) and adults infected with the hepatitis B virus recover completely and do not develop chronic infection.

    How common is hepatitis B in the United States?

    In 2018, a total of 3,322 cases of acute (short-term) hepatitis B were reported to CDC. Since many people may not have symptoms or don’t know they are infected, their illness is often not diagnosed so it can’t be reported or counted. CDC estimates the actual number of acute hepatitis B cases was closer to 21,600 in 2018. Many more people (about 862,000) are estimated to be living with chronic, long-term hepatitis B.

    How common is hepatitis B around the world?

    An estimated 257 million people are living with hepatitis B worldwide.

    Hepatitis B Transmission

    How is hepatitis B spread?

    Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected or has not been vaccinated. People can become infected with the virus from:

    Birth (spread from a mother who has hepatitis B to her baby during birth)

    Sex with a partner who has hepatitis B

    Sharing needles, syringes, or drug preparation equipment

    Sharing items such as toothbrushes, razors, or medical equipment (like a glucose monitor) with a person who has hepatitis B

    Direct contact with the blood or open sores of a person who has hepatitis B

    Exposure to the blood from a person who has hepatitis B through needlesticks or other sharp instruments

    Can a person spread the hepatitis B virus and not know it?

    Yes. Many people with hepatitis B don’t know they are infected with the virus because they don’t feel or look sick. However, they can still spread the virus to others.

    Can the hepatitis B virus be spread through sex?

    Yes. The hepatitis B virus can be found in the blood, semen, and other body fluids of an infected person. A person who has sex with an infected partner can become infected with the virus.

    Can hepatitis B be spread through food?

    Hepatitis B is not usually spread through food or water, unlike hepatitis A.

    Who is at risk for hepatitis B?

    Although anyone can get hepatitis B, these people are at greater risk:

    Infants born to mothers with hepatitis B

    People who inject drugs or share needles, syringes, and other types of drug equipment

    Sex partners of people with hepatitis B

    Men who have sex with men

    People who live with someone who has hepatitis B

    Health care and public safety workers exposed to blood on the job

    People on dialysis

    Who should be tested for hepatitis B?

    Source : www.cdc.gov

    Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

    Hepatitis B

    2 June 2022 العربية 中文 Français Русский Español

    Key facts

    Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

    The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids during sex with an infected partner, unsafe injections or exposures to sharp instruments.

    WHO estimates that 296 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection in 2019, with 1.5 million new infections each year.

    In 2019, hepatitis B resulted in an estimated 820 000 deaths, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).

    Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.


    Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is a major global health problem. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

    A safe and effective vaccine that offers 98% to 100% protection against hepatitis B is available. Preventing hepatitis B infection averts the development of complications including chronic disease and liver cancer.

    The burden of hepatitis B infection is highest in the WHO Western Pacific Region and the WHO African Region, where 116 million and 81 million people, respectively, are chronically infected. Sixty million people are infected in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, 18 million in the WHO South-East Asia Region, 14 million in the WHO European Region and 5 million in the WHO Region of the Americas.


    In highly endemic areas, hepatitis B is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth (perinatal transmission) or through horizontal transmission (exposure to infected blood), especially from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first 5 years of life. The development of chronic infection is common in infants infected from their mothers or before the age of 5 years.

    Hepatitis B is also spread by needlestick injury, tattooing, piercing and exposure to infected blood and body fluids, such as saliva and menstrual, vaginal and seminal fluids. Transmission of the virus may also occur through the reuse of contaminated needles and syringes or sharp objects either in health care settings, in the community or among persons who inject drugs. Sexual transmission is more prevalent in unvaccinated persons with multiple sexual partners.

    Hepatitis B infection acquired in adulthood leads to chronic hepatitis in less than 5% of cases, whereas infection in infancy and early childhood leads to chronic hepatitis in about 95% of cases. This is the basis for strengthening and prioritizing infant and childhood vaccination.

    The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine. The incubation period of the hepatitis B virus ranges from 30 to 180 days. The virus may be detected within 30 to 60 days after infection and can persist and develop into chronic hepatitis B, especially when transmitted in infancy or childhood.


    Most people do not experience any symptoms when newly infected. However, some people have acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. People with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death. Among the long-term complications of HBV infections, a  subset of persons develops advanced liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which cause high morbidity and mortality.

    HBV-HIV coinfection

    About 1% of persons living with HBV infection (2.7 million people) are also infected with HIV. Conversely, the global prevalence of HBV infection in HIV-infected persons is 7.4%. Since 2015, WHO has recommended treatment for everyone diagnosed with HIV infection, regardless of the stage of disease. Tenofovir, which is included in the treatment combinations recommended as first-line therapy for HIV infection, is also active against HBV.


    It is not possible on clinical grounds to differentiate hepatitis B from hepatitis caused by other viral agents, hence laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis is essential. Several blood tests are available to diagnose and monitor people with hepatitis B. They can be used to distinguish acute and chronic infections. WHO recommends that all blood donations be tested for hepatitis B to ensure blood safety and avoid accidental transmission.

    As of 2019, 30.4 million people (10.5% of all people estimated to be living with hepatitis B) were aware of their infection, while 6.6 million (22%) of the people diagnosed were on treatment. According to latest WHO estimates, the proportion of children under five years of age chronically infected with HBV dropped to just under 1% in 2019 down from around 5% in the pre-vaccine era ranging from the 1980s to the early 2000s.


    There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Therefore, care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Most important is the avoidance of unnecessary medications. Acetaminophen, paracetamol and medication against vomiting should be avoided.

    Source : www.who.int

    How Long Hepatitis Viruses Can Live Outside the Body

    Hepatitis viruses can live outside the body, but how long they can survive depends on the type. Get info on hepatitis strains A through E.


    How Long Can the Hepatitis Virus Live Outside the Body?

    How Long Can the Hepatitis Virus Live Outside the Body? The answer depends on the strain

    By Charles Daniel Updated on April 20, 2020

    Medically reviewed by Robert Burakoff, MD, MPH

    Viral hepatitis can be caused by any of the five strains of the virus. Each is transmitted differently and each can survive outside of the human body for varying amounts of time.

    Having some knowledge of how long a particular strain of the hepatitis virus can exist and how it typically is transmitted can be helpful in protecting yourself and others from infection.

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    The Five Types of Viral Hepatitis

    Hepatitis A

    The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted via food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with fecal matter from an infected person.1 Hepatitis A can survive outside the body for months in water and for several days in feces. It also can live on the hands for up to four hours.2

    For these reasons, it's highly contagious and therefore vital to make sure you're up-to-date with vaccinations. The hepatitis A vaccine is one of the regularly scheduled shots given to babies; it provides immunity for 14 to 20 years.

    There also is a dual vaccination for hepatitis A and hepatitis B that is approved for adults 18 and older. Called TWINRIX, this three-dose vaccination is good for up to 25 years.

    Other measures to take:

    Boil or cook food or liquids meant to be consumed for at least one minute at 185°F (85°C) to kill the virus.

    Wash hands frequently and vigorously, particularly after using the bathroom or visiting a public toilet.3

    Hepatitis B

    The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted via blood, semen, or other bodily fluids of an infected person. This can occur during sex with an infected partner, during childbirth, or by sharing intravenous drug needles. Hepatitis B can survive for up to a week outside of the human body.3

    If you are not up-to-date with your vaccinations, it's a good idea to get a hepatitis B vaccine (or the TWINRIX vaccine). In addition, a properly-fitting condom is important for preventing the spread of HBV between sexual partners. People who use injectable drugs should never share needles or other paraphernalia.

    Hepatitis C

    The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted through blood, semen, other bodily fluids, and shared needles.3

    It can live outside of the body for at least 16 hours and up to four days. There's no vaccine for hepatitis C, but the risk of HCV transmission can be minimized by following safer sex practices (always using a condom) and, for those who use intravenous drugs, never sharing or borrowing used needles.

    Hepatitis D

    The primary route of transmission of hepatitis D (HDV) is contact with infected blood. However, hepatitis D can only exist in the presence of hepatitis B, so preventing transmission of HVD is a matter of taking measures to prevent transmission of HBV, including getting the hepatitis B vaccine.3

    Hepatitis D can live outside the body for up to a week.

    Hepatitis E

    The hepatitis E virus (HEV) can be contracted from water, bodily fluids, and surfaces that are contaminated with infected fecal matter.3 The exact amount of time HEV can survive outside of the body is unknown, but it's thought to be similar to the time hepatitis A can live (months in water and feces and up to four hours on the hands).

    Hepatitis E infection is a self-limiting disease, meaning it does not result in chronic illness and usually clears up within four to six weeks. It's relatively rare. There's no HEV vaccine.

    A Word From Verywell

    If you are concerned you may have been exposed to any strain of hepatitis virus, see a healthcare provider. They can arrange for you to have a blood test to determine if you've been infected. The idea of doing this may be scary, so it's important to know that hepatitis generally is highly treatable, especially when caught early.

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    Source : www.verywellhealth.com

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