Infections

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver. It is a potentially life threatening liver infection. It can cause chronic infection and put people at risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

It is transmitted through contact with blood and other bodily fluids of an infected person. It is a lot more infectious than HIV.

It is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, particularly unvaccinated men who have sex with men and heterosexual persons who have multiple sex partners.   Transmission of the virus can also occur through sharing needles in those who inject drugs or a needle stick injury in a healthcare setting. In addition, infection can occur during medical, surgical or dental procedures, through tattooing or the use of razors or similar objects that are contaminated with infected blood. Also, from an infected mother to a child during birth.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Most people do not experience any symptoms in the acute phase infection stage. The incubation period is 1-6 months. However, some people experience symptoms lasting several weeks including:

  • Jaundice [ yellowing of the skin]
  • Dark urine
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdomen pain

How is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?

A finger prick blood sample in a home testing kit.

It there treatment for Hepatitis B?

There is no specific treatment. Chronic Hepatitis B infection can be treated with drugs including oral antiviral agents. Treatment can slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival.