Most common routes of transmission for hepatitis B or C viruses are the following:

  • Blood transfusions and blood products using unscreened blood (in most developed countries blood has been screened since about 1990)
  • Medical or dental interventions without adequate sterilisation of equipment
  • Mother to infant during childbirth (very common in hepatitis B; less common in hepatitis C)
  • Needlestick injury in healthcare settings
  • Sharing equipment for injecting drugs
  • Sharing straws, notes etc. for snorting drugs
  • Sharing razors, toothbrushes or other household articles
  • Tattooing and body piercing if done using unsterilised equipment

In the case of hepatitis B, infection can also occur through having unprotected sex with an infected person. 
If you think you could have been at risk from either hepatitis B or C, it is important to get tested. A specific test is required for each. Do not assume that you would have been tested in a routine health check.

Getting vaccinated is the best way of preventing hepatitis B infection. More than one billion doses of the hepatitis B vaccine have been used since the early 1980s and it has been shown to be effective in approximately 95% of cases. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.