Hepatitis B: Fast Facts About STDs


Fast Facts About STDs: Hepatitis B

Name of Disease or Infection
Hepatitis B, also known as Hepatitis.

Type of Disease or Infection
Viral, caused by Hepatitis B Virus (HBV).

How Common Is It?
Approximately 100,000 people in the United States will become infected each year, and between 10 and 30 million will become infected worldwide.

How Do I Get It?
HBV is not just a sexually transmitted disease, but also a hardy virus that can exist on almost any surface for up to one month. HBV is found in the blood, semen and vaginal secretions of infected people, with low concentrations in their saliva. HBV can be spread by unprotected anal or vaginal sex, sharing needles used for drugs, body piercing or tattooing, contact with open sores, sharing toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers or washcloths, living in a household with a person with ongoing HBV infection, or by human bites from an infected person. You do not get HBV from sneezing, coughing, or holding hands.

Hepatitis causes impaired liver function, which leads to fever, muscle/joint soreness, jaundice, diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting and dark-colored urine. People who are infected with HBV, whether they have symptoms or not, can spread the disease to others. Symptoms develop one to four months following exposure. About 30% of people infected with HBV never have signs or symptoms.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have It?
See your clinician or physician immediately for an antigen blood test.

How Do I Get Rid of It?
No medical treatment is currently available. Bed rest is recommended until the disease runs its course. However, a vaccine is available which can prevent infection in almost all cases. Approximately 6% of adults who become infected will carry HBV in their bodies for years or for life and remain contagious, and become known as "chronically infected." Chronically infected people usually do not have symptoms, but are at increased risk for liver failure and liver cancer and need ongoing medical care.

What Happens If I Don't Treat It?
HBV infection can cause severe liver disease, including liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Between 5000 to 6000 people die every year from Hepatitis B-related liver disease.

Who Should I Tell?
If you have Hepatitis B you should tell any past, current or future partners.