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Hepatitis Information Center

Hepatitis B Fact Sheet*


About 30% of persons have no sign or symptoms.
Signs and symptoms are less common in children than adults

  • jaundice
  • fatigue
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea, vomiting
  • joint pain


Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)


Chronic infection occurs in:

  • 90% of infants infected at birth
  • 30% of children infected at age 1 - 5 years
  • 6% of persons infected after age 5 years

Death from chronic liver disease occurs in:

  • 15 - 25% of chronically infected persons


  • Occurs when blood or body fluids from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not immune.
  • HBV is spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom, sharing needles or "works" when "shooting" drugs, through needlesticks or sharps exposures on the job, or from an infected mother to her baby during birth.

Persons at risk for HBV infection might also be at risk for infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) or HIV.


  • Persons with multiple sex partners or diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Sex contacts of infected persons
  • Injection drug users
  • Household contacts of chronically infected persons
  • Infants born to infected mothers
  • Infants/children of immigrants from areas with high rates of HBV infection
  • Health care and public safety workers
  • Hemodialysis patients


  • Hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection.
  • If you are having sex, but not with one steady partner, use latex condoms* correctly and every time you have sex.
  • If you are pregnant, you should get a blood test for hepatitis B. Infants born to HBV-infected mothers should be given H-BIG (hepatitis B immune globulin) and vaccine within 12 hours after birth.
  • Do not shoot drugs. If you shoot drugs, stop and get into a treatment program. If you can't stop, never share needles, syringes, water, or "works", and get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
  • Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them (razors, toothbrushes).
  • Consider the risks if you are thinking about getting a tattoo or body piercing. You might get infected if the tools have someone else's blood on them or if the artist or piercer does not follow good health practices.
  • If you have or had hepatitis B, do not donate blood, organs, or tissue.
  • If you are a health care or public safety worker, get vaccinated against hepatitis B, and always follow routine barrier precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps.

* The efficacy of latex condoms in preventing infection with HBV is unknown, but their proper use may reduce transmission.


  • Hepatitis B vaccine available since 1982.
  • Routine vaccination of 0 - 18 year olds.
  • Vaccination of risk groups of all ages (see section on risk groups)


  • HBV infected persons should be evaluated by their doctor for liver disease.
  • Adefovir dipivoxil, alpha interferon and lamivudine are three drugs licensed for the treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis B.
  • These drugs should not be used by pregnant women.
  • Drinking alcohol can make your liver disease worse.


  • Number of new infections per year has declined from an estimated 260,000 in the 1980s to about 78,000 in 2001.
  • Highest rate of disease occurs in 20 - 49 year olds.
  • Greatest decline has happened among children and adolescents due to routine hepatitis B vaccination.
  • Estimated 1.25 million chronically infected Americans, of whom 20 - 30% acquired their infection in childhood.

*Based on information published by the Centers for Disease Control.

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