Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is one of the most common viral infections in the world. The WHO estimates that two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus, and approximately 240 million people are living with chronic infections. The virus is highly infectious, around 50-100 times more infectious than HIV in cases of needle stick injury. Acute hepatitis B infections often go away within six months. However, if the infection becomes chronic, it may cause far more serious complications. The younger you are when you become infected, the more likely you are to develop chronic infection.

Transmission: Hepatitis B is transmittedthrough contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. It can be passed on from mother to child during childbirth.

Prevention: There is a vaccination that can prevent infection. If you have not been vaccinated, to reduce chances of exposure it is best to use condoms, and to avoid sharing needles or items such as toothbrushes, razors or nail scissors with an infected person. It is also wise to avoid getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities.

Treatment: Drugs such as alpha interferon and peginterferon and a variety of antiviral drugs are available which slow the replication of the virus and occasionally result in its clearance. Children born to mothers infected with hepatitis B should also be vaccinated within 12 hours of birth, as this can prevent an infection that will most likely progress to chronic hepatitis B.

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Prevalence of Hepatitis B

World Health Organization Factsheet on Hepatitis B