HoG Handbook

Hepatitis B


VirusHepatitis B is a virus that is easily spread during sex.  It can also be spread through blood, such as with a blood transfusion, or by sharing needles, razors, or toothbrushes with an infected person.  Hepatitis B can also be passed by a pregnant woman to her unborn child.  Hepatitis B is not spread through casual contact or through food or water.

A person with Hepatitis B does not have to feel sick to pass the virus.  In fact, the virus is more easily spread from the person's body before he or she has symptoms.

It may be six weeks to six months after the virus gets in a person's body before symptoms show.  Some people never have signs of being sick.  The symptoms of Hepatitis B are similar to those for other hepatitis viruses:  tiredness, loss of appetite, mild fever, aching muscles or joints, stomach pain, feeling sick to your stomach, and diarrhea (loose stools).  Some people get yellow-colored skin or eyes (jaundice), dark colored urine, and light colored bowel movements.

Most people recover from Hepatitis B in about six months.  Their bodies get rid of the virus and they never have to worry about getting it again.  However, some people develop a chronic infection.  This means that the virus stays in the body and can be passed to someone else.  A person whose body does not get rid of the virus is called a "chronic carrier".  Chronic carriers are at risk of the virus damaging their livers or causing liver cancer.

There are blood tests that can tell if you have ever had Hepatitis B or if you are a chronic carrier.  There is also a vaccine (shot) to prevent the disease.  Everyone who has never had Hepatitis B should get the vaccine so he or she will be protected.