Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infection caused by a virus. It infects the liver.


Who has it?

About 850,000-2.2 million people in the US have hepatitis B. In 2016, almost 20,000 people in the US were newly infected with hepatitis B. In California alone, there were over 750 newly reported cases in 2016. Hepatitis B is not as common as it used to be among young people because there is a vaccine for it.

How do you get hepatitis B?

The hepatitis B virus lives in body fluids like blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. If you come into contact with a hepatitis B-infected person’s fluids through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex, you could get hepatitis B. You can also get hepatitis B by sharing needles, drugs, nail clippers, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has the virus, or by getting a tattoo or piercing with infected tools.

How do you know you have hepatitis B?

Many people who have hepatitis B don’t know it – they may feel fine, or they may just feel like they have the flu. Some people have these symptoms:

  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • No appetite (they don't want to eat)
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Brown or dark urine (pee)
  • Light or gray stools
  • Pain in the stomach, muscles or joints

How do you test for hepatitis B?

Your doctor will do a simple blood test if he or she thinks you have hepatitis B.

Can you get rid of hepatitis B?

There is no cure for hepatitis B, but in some people, it goes away on its own. Some people have it for the rest of their lives. There is medicine that can help the liver of people who have chronic hepatitis. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can still pass it on to others if you have unprotected sex with them.

How can you protect yourself from getting hepatitis B?

The best way to avoid hepatitis B is to get the vaccine, which is a recommended vaccine for babies. If you haven’t had the hepatitis B vaccine, you should let your doctor know. Condoms may also be helpful in preventing Hepatitis B from spreading.

What’s the worst that could happen?

You could pass it on to your partners, even if you don’t have symptoms. Hepatitis B infection also increases your likelihood of getting HIV. Chronic hepatitis can lead to liver damage, cancer, or even death.