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Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists

 Confidential and expert care                                                                                                                      703 532-1100

Hepatitis B

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 disease.