Hepatitis B (also called hep B) is a viral infection of the liver. It is most commonly contracted through sex, sharing needles, and in less common cases from tattoos and body piercing in which equipment was exposed to contaminated blood.
In 2020, an estimated 222,559 people were living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia, 73% (162,480) of which had been diagnosed.
Most adults will fully recover from the infection, however, young children are more likely to have ongoing infection or problems later in life. In most people, hepatitis B can be effectively prevented through vaccination.
Hepatitis B is most common in some countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. If you are travelling overseas to any of these destinations, then you should speak to your healthcare professional regarding prevention measures.
Hepatitis B (also called hep B) is a virus that infects the liver. The virus can be found in blood and bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal fluid.
Hepatitis B (also called hep B) is caused by a virus that infects the liver. The virus can be found in blood and bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal fluid.
As the hepatitis B virus infects the liver, symptoms often include abdominal pain (right side) and dark coloured urine. However, some people will experience no signs or symptoms of infection.
Most adults will fully recover from a hepatitis B infection; however, if left untreated some will develop a long lasting, chronic infection.
Most newborn babies do not recover from a hepatitis B infection and will have the disease for the rest of their lives.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood and bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal fluid. Therefore, you may be exposed to the hepatitis B virus through unprotected sex (without a condom), or through sharing needles for drug injection, or through acupuncture, body piercing and tattooing, if proper sterility and hygiene practices are not followed.
Hepatitis B may also be transferred from a mother to baby during birth or in the time after birth.
In less common cases, hepatitis B may also be spread by contact with personal items such as contaminated razors and toothbrushes.
Due to screening of blood products and organs for transplant, contracting hepatitis B through a blood transfusion or organ transplant is not likely in Australia.
Hepatitis B can be easily spread from person to person via contact with blood or bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal fluids.
There are precautions you can take to reduce your risk of hepatitis B infection:
If you have hepatitis B, you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus by:
Symptoms are that of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) including:
Hepatitis B may present with no symptoms, which means the person may not know they have the infection and may be unwittingly spreading the virus to other people.
In most cases the symptoms (if present) appear three months after initial exposure to the virus, however, this can range from six weeks to six months. Most adults will make a complete recovery from the infection; however, most infants and about half of young children will persist to a chronic infection for the rest of their lives.
Chronic hepatitis B infection carries with it an increased risk of liver cirrhosis (scarring) and liver cancer.
North America, Northern Europe and Australia have a low incidence of hepatitis B. Countries in the Mediterranean, parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, Central and South America have higher rates. The highest rates of hepatitis B exist in sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific Islands.
If you are travelling to countries with higher incidences of hepatitis B or those which may not screen their blood supply in case of a blood transfusion, there are several precautions you can take:
MAT-AU-2102484 Date of preparation January 2022Show All