Hepatitis B is a virus which infects
the liver. It is present in both the blood and body fluids of infected
people. Hepatitis B is spread by blood-to-blood contact or by having
sex (vaginal, oral or anal) with an infected person. A high risk for
blood contact is the sharing of needles or equipment with infected IV
drug users. Sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person may
spread the disease. Health workers may be at risk by accidental
needlestick injuries. Women who are hepatitis B carriers may infect
their babies around the time of birth.
People who are infected may have no symptoms at all or they may
become ill with fever, nausea, dark urine, or jaundice (yellow skin and
eyes). After infection, most adults recover and become immune to the
virus. A few people do not clear the virus, but become carriers and may
continue to infect other people. Hepatitis B carriers may experience no
health problems or, over a period of years, may develop liver disease
such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.
Hepatitis B can be diagnosed with blood tests.
A vaccine to protect against hepatitis B is available, but it is
not effective for hepatitis B carriers. Vaccination requires 3
injections over 6 months, and you need to complete the course for full
protection. The hepatitis B vaccine will not protect you against
hepatitis C, hepatitis A, HIV, or any other sexually transmitted