“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks, to a serious lifelong illness.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids infected with the HBV enter the body through a break in the skin, through mucous membranes (e.g., eyes, sores in the mouth), or through sexual intercourse.
People can become infected with the virus during activities such as:
Hepatitis B is not spread by:
Acute Hepatitis B symptoms:
Most adults (70%) will develop symptoms from acute HBV infection, but many young children do not.
Symptoms, if they appear, can include:
Symptoms usually last a few weeks, but some people can be
ill for as long as 6 months.
Chronic Hepatitis B symptoms:
Some people with chronic Hepatitis B have ongoing symptoms similar to acute Hepatitis B, but most individuals remain symptom free for as long as 20 or 30 years.
About 15–25% of people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. Even as the liver becomes diseased, some people still do not have symptoms, although certain blood tests for liver function may show some abnormalities.
On average, symptoms appear 90 days (three months) after exposure, but they can appear any time between six weeks and six months after exposure.
Infection with Hepatitis B can lead to immunity – if you recover from acute infection and the infection does not progress to chronic infection.
The younger a person is when infected with Hepatitis B virus, the greater their chance of developing chronic Hepatitis B. Worldwide, most people with chronic Hepatitis B were infected at birth or during early childhood.
Once you recover from Hepatitis B, you must get tested by your provider to see if you have developed immunity. Being free from symptoms does not mean that your immune system fought off the infection.
Chronic Hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result in longterm health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. Approximately 2,000–4,000 people die every year from Hepatitis B-related liver disease in the United States.
Yes. The Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of shots that stimulate a person’s natural immune system to protect against HBV.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for:
If you are concerned that you might have been exposed to the HBV, call your health care provider or the Spokane Regional Health District. If a person who has been exposed to HBV gets the Hepatitis B vaccine and/or a shot called “HBIG” (Hepatitis B immune globulin) within 24 hours, Hepatitis B infection may be prevented.
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective and is usually given as three shots over a six-month period.
Yes. While there is no medication available to treat acute HBV infection, treatment during an acute infection generally manages any symptoms and may require hospitalization. Antiviral drugs are available for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis B, but often these medications do not cure a person, but rather help to slow progression towards more serious liver disease such as cirrhosis.