Hepatitis B (HBV) is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It can result in chronic infection and serious and potentially life-threatening disease. HBV is spread through infected blood and through unprotected sex with an infected person.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The Hepatitis B virus attacks the liver. It can become a chronic infection and cause potentially serious, life-threatening disease.
An infected person can develop signs of the illness anytime from six weeks to six months after contact with the Hepatitis B virus. Up to half of infected people do not have symptoms and are not aware that they are infected.
Common signs and symptoms of an HBC infection include:
- Loss of appetite
- Tenderness in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Dark-colored urine
- Clay-colored stools
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyeballs)
How can I get Hepatitis B?
HBV is highly infectious and can live outside the body in dried blood for up to four weeks. The most common sources of infection are:
- Blood transfusions in countries that have sub-optimal blood donor screening programs.
- Blood to blood contact through:
- Infected needles or an accidental needle stick injury.
- Unsterilized medical or dental equipment.
- Contaminated tools used for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture, or injecting drugs.
- Toothbrush or razor shared with an infected person.
- Sexual contact with an infected person.
- Transmission from an infected mother to her newborn at birth.
You cannot get Hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, or sharing dishes and cutlery. People who have the HBV virus spread it to others when they sneeze or cough.
Where can I get Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B occurs worldwide. There are higher-than-average numbers of chronic carriers in Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Africa, and parts of Asia and the Middle East.
What vaccines are available for Hepatitis B?
The Hepatitis B vaccine is given in a series of three doses. Vaccine reactions are usually mild and local to the site.
Twinrix® is an alternative vaccine that is for Hepatitis A and B. It is also given in a series of three doses.
Will I need a booster?
The series of three vaccines provides lifelong protection.
How can I prevent Hepatitis B?
If you have not been vaccinated, or you do not have natural immunity to the Hepatitis B virus as a result of a previous infection, you may be at risk of contracting Hepatitis B. Travellers who are at highest risk of contracting Hepatitis B include those who will be:
- Working in a health care setting.
- Staying for an extended time in an area where HBV is endemic.
- Taking part in risky activities such as unprotected sex or sharing drug-use equipment like needles and glass pipes.
- Getting medical, dental, or cosmetic procedures or tattoos in settings with unsterile equipment.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?
Most people who get Hepatitis B will clear the infection on their own. Anti-viral treatment is available for chronic Hepatitis B carriers.
Find out more information on Hepatitis B from our Vancouver Travel Clinic or any of our other 18 Travel Clinic locations.