Hepatitis B - Transmission

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If known, describe how you or someone you know was exposed to and infected with hepatitis B.

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How is the hepatitis B virus spread (transmitted)?

Hepatitis B is spread mainly by exposure to infected blood or body secretions. In infected individuals, the virus can be found in the blood, semen, vaginal discharge, breast milk, and saliva. Hepatitis B is not spread through food, water, or by casual contact.

In the United States, sexual contact is the most common means of transmission, followed by using contaminated needles for injecting illicit drugs, tattooing, body piercing, or acupuncture. Additionally, hepatitis B can be transmitted through sharing toothbrushes and razors contaminated with infected fluids or blood.

Hepatitis B also may be spread from infected mothers to their babies at birth (so-called 'vertical' transmission). This is the most prevalent means of transmission in regions of the world where hepatitis B rates are high. The rate of transmission of hepatitis B from mother to newborn is very high, and almost all infected infants will develop chronic hepatitis B. Fortunately, transmission can be significantly reduced through immunoprophylaxis (see below).

Rarely, hepatitis B can be transmitted through transfused blood products, donated livers and other organs. However, blood and organ donors are routinely screened for hepatitis which typically prevents this type of transmission.

Return to Hepatitis B (HBV, Hep B)

See what others are saying

Comment from: tf60, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: September 03

I was told I had Hepatitis B when I was 16 years old, due to IV use. I only was sick for 2 weeks then had relapse due to going back to work to soon. I rested for 2 more weeks. I was told not to drink alcohol and eat right, and I'll live a good life. I can't donate blood but other than that I am fine.

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Comment from: Darlene, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: April 14

I found out when I donated platelets a few weeks ago that I tested reactive to hepatitis B. So my personal doctor took more tests and I just learned I have chronic hepatitis B...don't know yet if treatment is warranted. The only symptoms I have are headaches, insomnia and extreme tiredness. But this is not every day, it is random. I think I got it when I had a tattoo done in summer 2012. It got infected and I had to be on antibiotics. I wonder now why the doctor did not order a hepatitis B test then since the needle was obviously not sterilized properly. However, I did not show any signs of hepatitis B, but I did not know to look for that either. It was in 2014 that I experienced a lot of fatigue and headaches. I thought it was aging and allergies, now I finally know.

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