How Do You Know If The Infection Is Still Present In Your Body
Generally, a blood test is required to test for the presence of hepatitis B in the body. Symptoms of the infection can be quite misleading and hence cannot form the sole basis for diagnosing the disease. After you are treated for the infection and physically recover from it, your doctor may suggest a blood test to confirm that no signs of the infection remain in your bloodstream.
Some people may recover from the illness but still have traces of the infection longer than six months. Such people become carriers of the disease and may continue even without symptoms. You can transmit the virus to someone else through:
- Sexual intercourse
- Blood or open sores
- Needles or syringes
In some cases, the disease could settle on its own even if you are a carrier. However, if it lasts for more than six months, hepatitis B can turn into a chronic infection. In the chronic form, the infection will soon turn into a condition of the liver that can result in liver cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. Over time with the long-term infection, the livers performance is affected and could even lead to liver cancer.
How You Can Get Hepatitis B
You can get hepatitis B from:
- injecting drugs using shared needles
- being injured by a used needle
- having a tattoo or piercing with unsterilised equipment
- having a blood transfusion in a country that does not check blood for hepatitis B. Blood transfusions in the UK are checked for hepatitis B.
If you’re pregnant and have hepatitis B, you can also pass it onto your baby during pregnancy or birth.
Hepatitis B: How Does It Spread
You can get it through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. In the U.S., its most often spread through unprotected sex. Its also possible to get hepatitis B by sharing an infected persons needles, razors, or toothbrush. And an infected mother can pass the virus to their baby during childbirth. Hepatitis B is not spread by hugging, sharing food, or coughing.
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Who Is Likely To Be A Hepatitis B Carrier
People living with chronic hepatitis B can be carriers. Often, carriers do not have symptoms. This means that they may unknowingly transmit the virus to others.
However, within the U.S., there is a low rate of hepatitis B infections, which means that there is a small number of carriers. To prevent transmission, people can receive the hepatitis B vaccine.
A person living with chronic hepatitis B who is an asymptomatic carrier can still spread the virus to others.
The ways to transmit the infection include:
- having genital contact with others
- sharing needles
Whats The Difference Between Acute And Chronic Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can be either acute or chronic:
- Acute hepatitis B lasts for a short period of time. If you have acute hepatitis B, you may be asymptomatic or have symptoms and develop icteric hepatitis. It can transition into chronic hepatitis B if the virus doesnt naturally go away after 6 months.
- Chronic hepatitis B lasts for at least 6 months. If you have this type of hepatitis, you may carry the hepatitis B virus for the rest of your life. Its possible to have chronic hepatitis B that started as acute, but many people dont have acute hepatitis B first.
Most people with acute hepatitis B make a full recovery. Some may never even show any symptoms. But those with chronic hepatitis B often need treatment to help manage the infection. Chronic hepatitis B also increases your risk of developing cirrhosis and certain types of liver cancer.
Your risk of developing chronic hepatitis B depends on when you first received your diagnosis of the virus. Children who receive a diagnosis of hepatitis B, especially those under the age of 5 years old, have a higher risk of the infection becoming chronic. Adults are less likely to develop chronic hepatitis B. Around 90 percent of adults who develop it will fully recover.
Keep in mind that hepatitis B can be present for years before you start to show any symptoms.
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Other Body Fluids And Tissues
Synovial fluid , amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and peritoneal fluid can contain the hepatitis B virus, but the risk of transmission to workers is not known.
Feces, nasal secretions, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, and vomit have not been implicated in the spread of hepatitis B. Unless they are visibly contaminated with blood, the risk of contracting hepatitis B from these fluids in the workplace is very low.
Hepatitis B is not transmitted by casual contact. For example, hospital employees who have no contact with blood, blood products, or blood-contaminated fluids are at no greater risk than the general public. However, the virus can spread through intimate contact with carriers in a household setting, possibly because of frequent physical contact with small cuts or skin rashes. The virus can also spread through biting and possibly by the sharing of toothbrushes or razors. It is not spread through sneezing, coughing, hand holding, hugging, kissing, breastfeeding, sharing eating utensils, water or food.
Who Should Be Vaccinated For Hepatitis B
All newborns should be vaccinated. Also, people who are under 18 who were not vaccinated at birth should also get the vaccine. Other groups who should be sure to be vaccinated are those in certain high-risk categories, such as:
- People who have more than one sexual partner.
- Men who have sex with men.
- Adults with diabetes.
- Sexual partners of infected people and people who share households with infected individuals.
- People who are exposed to blood and other bodily fluids, including healthcare and public safety professionals, and people who work in jails and other places taking care of people who cant take care of themselves.
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Chronic Hepatitis B Treatment
For hepatitis B, treatment is aimed at controlling the virus and preventing damage to the liver. Antiviral medications are available that will benefit most people, but the medications need to be chosen carefully, and the treatment needs to be monitored in order to assure successful treatment and to prevent or treat medication-related side effects. For some individuals, the risks of treatment may not be justified.
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How Do You Know If You Have Hepatitis B
Signs and symptoms can vary, in particular by the age of the individual. Many individuals may not show symptoms . When symptoms develop, they include fever, joint pain, abdominal pain, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, clay-coloured bowel movements, or jaundice.
Most infections are asymptomatic or mild. Occasionally, people with serious cases of hepatitis B require hospitalization. A very small proportion of these patients develop a critical form of the disease called âfulminantâ hepatitis B. This condition results from a sudden breakdown of liver function.
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Whats The Procedure For A Hepatitis B Titer Test
A hepatitis titer test requires a healthcare professional to draw a small amount of blood for testing.
No special preparation is needed beforehand. If needles or the sight of blood make you anxious, you may want to arrange a drive ahead of time in case you feel faint.
Heres what will typically happen during this test:
Home tests that require a fingerpick are also available. The results of your tests are generally available within 3 days.
How Much Does A Hepatitis B Titer Test Cost
The cost of a hepatitis B test varies based on where you get the test. Prices range from roughly $24 to $110.
Your insurance may cover some or all of the cost. Under the Affordable Care Act, all new health plans must cover preventative services including hepatitis B vaccination and testing without a deductible or copay.
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Symptoms And Disease Progression
The majority of adults with hepatitis B have no symptoms, and infection is often only diagnosed by routine blood tests and monitoring the health of the liver. Among people living with HIV, routine liver function monitoring sometimes shows elevated liver enzymes, which can be a sign of liver inflammation due to hepatitis B.
Some people develop symptoms soon after hepatitis B infection, known as the acute phase. These can include the following:
What Are The Treatments For Hepatitis B
If you think you may have been exposed to hepatitis B, its important to talk with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
A doctor or other healthcare professional may administer the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine and a shot of hepatitis B immunoglobulin. This is a combination of antibodies that provide short-term protection against the virus.
Though both can be given up to a week after exposure, theyre most effective at preventing infection if administered within 48 hours.
If you receive a diagnosis of acute hepatitis B, a doctor may refer you to a specialist. They may advise you to get regular blood tests to ensure you dont develop chronic hepatitis.
Many people with acute hepatitis B dont experience serious symptoms. But if you do, it can help to:
- get plenty of rest
- take over-the-counter pain mediation, like naproxen, when needed
Other lifestyle changes may also be needed to manage your infection, such as:
- eating a nutritious, balanced diet
- avoiding substances that can harm your liver, such as:
- certain herbal supplements or medications, including acetaminophen
If blood tests show you still have an active infection after 6 months, your doctor may recommend further treatment, including medications to help control the virus and prevent liver damage.
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What Is Hepatitis B And Is It Contagious
Whats in this article
- What is hepatitis B?
What is hepatitis B?The CDC estimates that 350 million people worldwide are infected with the virus. It is a viral disease that attacks the liver which can cause both acute and chronic liver disease. People who are immune deficient are more likely to develop the chronic version of hepatitis B. According to the Mayo Clinic, having chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis a condition that permanently scars the liver.
What causes hepatitis B?In order to understand whether the disease is contagious, we need to first understand what causes the disease. Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus, which is 100 times more infectious than the HIV virus. According to the Liver Directory, the hepatitis B virus can spread from mother to unborn child, through unprotected sexual contact with a person with active HBV, through intravenous drug usage, and unsanitary tattoo and piercing conditions. It should also be noted that razors, tweezers and toothbrushes should not be shared with an infected person as this can pass on the virus as well.
Always ensure you practice safe sex and do not engage in unprotected sex. When getting tattoos or piercings always ensure you choose a place that is sanitary and that follows the health code.
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How Common Is It
In 2006, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported the incidence of HBV as 2.0 cases for every 100,000 or about 650 cases reported annually in Canada. In the year 2013, the incident rate was 0.5 per 100,000 . Incidence of the disease varies from region to region but has been declining due to increasing use of the vaccine and universal immunization programs.
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Treatment And Prevention Of Hepatitis A
Because hepatitis A virus infections can have serious health consequences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends providing post-exposure prophylaxis for unvaccinated people who have consumed any contaminated food or water within two weeks of exposure.
PEP consists of:
- Hepatitis A vaccine for people between the ages of 1 and 40 years
- Hepatitis A virus-specific immunoglobulin for people outside of this age range, but the hepatitis A vaccine can be substituted if IG is not available.
- Those with evidence of previous vaccination or who can confirm previous hepatitis A illness do not require PEP.
If you are unsure if you have been vaccinated against hepatitis A, contact your health professional to check your immunization records. If you have been vaccinated, no further action is needed. If you have never received the hepatitis A vaccine, getting a single dose within two weeks of exposure can protect against illness. If you are unable to determine whether you have already been vaccinated, receiving an additional dose of vaccine is not harmful if you have already been vaccinated.
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What Should I Do If I Have Been Exposed To Hepatitis B Or Get Sick With Hepatitis B
If you are exposed to hepatitis B or get sick with it, call your healthcare provider or local health department. If you haven’t been vaccinated against hepatitis B and you’ve been exposed recently, you can get hepatitis B vaccine or immune globulin. You need to do this within 24 hours to help prevent infection with the hepatitis B virus.
There is no medical treatment for acute hepatitis B. Doctors recommend a sick person rest, get good nutrition, and drink fluids. Some people may need to be hospitalized.
People with chronic hepatitis B need to be under the care of a doctor who has experience treating hepatitis B. They need regular monitoring for signs of liver disease and evaluation for possible treatment. Chronic hepatitis B is treated with several approved medications, but once medication is started, the infected person will need to take medication for life.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Getting Hepatitis B
Due to the way that hepatitis B spreads, people most at risk for getting infected include:
- Children whose mothers have been infected with hepatitis B.
- Children who have been adopted from countries with high rates of hepatitis B infection.
- People who have unprotected sex and/or have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
- People who live with or work in an institutional setting, such as prisons or group homes.
- Healthcare providers and first responders.
- People who share needles or syringes.
- People who live in close quarters with a person with chronic hepatitis B infection.
- People who are on dialysis.
What Is The Best Way To Prevent Hepatitis B
The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. You must complete the series of shots for full protection. All infants should receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth, followed by a second dose at 1 to 2 months, and a third dose at 6 to 18 months. Infants who did not receive a birth dose should begin the series as soon as possible.
All unvaccinated children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age should get vaccinated.
All adults 19 through 59 years of age are recommended to get vaccinated.
Adults 60 years and older with risk factors should get vaccinated.
A combination vaccine that provides protection against both hepatitis A and B is available for those age 18 years and older. This vaccine is a series of 3 shots over a period of 6 months.
Immune globulin gives short-term prevention of hepatitis B in people of all ages recently exposed to hepatitis B, but the vaccine is preferred for long-term prevention.
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What Makes Hepatitis B A Serious Illness
Many people with hepatitis B do not know they are infected since they do not look or feel sick, yet they can still spread the virus to others. Acute infection can lead to chronic infection, which can cause cirrhosis , liver cancer, liver failure, and death. During childbirth, a mother may pass hepatitis B to her baby. Newborns infected with hepatitis B have a 90 percent chance of developing chronic hepatitis B. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people die each year in the U.S. from liver disease caused by hepatitis B.
How Are Hepatitis B And Hepatitis C Spread From Person To Person
Like HIV, the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses spread:
- From mother to child: Pregnant women can pass these infections to their infants. HIV-HCV coinfection increases the risk of passing on hepatitis C to the baby.
- Sexually: Both viruses can also be transmitted sexually, but HBV is much more likely than HCV to be transmitted sexually. Sexual transmission of HCV is most likely to happen among gay and bisexual men who are living with HIV.
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What Should You Know About Hepatitis B Before You Travel
Hepatitis B is quite common in China and other Asian countries, where as many as 1 in 12 people have the virus, though many dont know it. Before traveling to those places, you should make sure youve been vaccinated against the virus.
In addition to getting the vaccine, you can take these additional precautions to reduce your risk of contracting the virus:
- Refrain from taking illegal drugs.
- Always use latex or polyurethane condoms during sex.
- Make sure new, sterile needles are used during all piercings, tattoos and acupuncture sessions.
- Avoid direct contact with blood and bodily fluids.
- Know the HBV status of all your sexual partners.
- Ask your doctor about possible vaccination before you travel to a place where hepatitis B is common.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can cause serious damage to your health. One reason that is dangerous is that it can easily go undetected for years while damaging your liver. Talk with your healthcare provider about being tested for hepatitis B if you have any reason to believe that you were not vaccinated or if you have engaged in risky behavior. If you do test positive, follow the directions from your healthcare provider so that you can live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/09/2020.