Hep B (Hepatitis B)

Hep B (Hepatitis B) is a contagious, viral infection of the liver that can cause chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B (HBV) can be acute or chronic.

At-Risk Populations

  • Anyone who has vaginal and/or anal sex with someone else who is infected with HBV
  • Anyone who has more than one sex partner
  • Anyone who has a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Any man who has sex with other men
  • Anyone who lives with someone who has chronic HBV
  • Infants who are born to mothers infected with HBV
  • Anyone who shares needles, syringes, or works for injecting drugs, body piercing, and/or tattooing
  • Anyone who shares or handles razors, nail files, combs, toothbrushes, and/or any other personal-care items of someone who has HBV
  • Anyone who is exposed to blood or bodily fluids at work, including healthcare providers, first responders, or people who work with patients who are developmentally disabled
  • Anyone who has ever had hemodialysis
  • Anyone who travels to countries with moderate to high rates of HBV
  • If you are at-risk for HBV infection, contact your healthcare provider. Early diagnosis will help prevent spreading the disease and protect your liver.


Symptoms can start as soon as six weeks after being exposed to HBV or as long as six months after being exposed. On average, symptoms start 90 days after exposure. Many individuals with chronic HBV can be symptom-free for as long as 20 or 30 years. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

How It Spreads

HBV is spread by coming in contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluids of someone who has HBV or by using razors, toothbrushes, or other personal-care items of someone who has HBV. It can also be spread from a woman to her baby during childbirth. HBV is not spread by sharing utensils, breastfeeding, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sharing food or water.


  • Get the hepatitis B vaccine. (more)The vaccine is usually given as a series of 2 to 4 shots during a 1 to 6 month period. You must get all of the required doses to be fully protected.
  • Wear gloves if you have any chance of touching blood or other bodily fluids.
  • Don't share or reuse needles or works for injecting drugs, for body piercing, or for tattooing. (more)
  • Don't share personal-care items, such as toothbrushes, razors, nail files, combs, or washcloths. There may be blood on these items that you cannot see.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex.(more)
  • If you are a healthcare worker or first responder, always follow universal precautions and safely handle needles and other sharps. (more)
  • Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG) may be recommended for someone who is exposed to another person who has HBV. People who might get HBIG include babies who are born to mothers who have HBV or sex partners of people who have HBV.

Testing & Diagnosis

If you think you have been exposed to HBV, contact your healthcare provider to get a HBV blood test. Updated CDC recommendations advise hepatitis B screening for all adults at least once in their lifetime.


Anyone with chronic HBV should get care from a doctor who specializes in treating hepatitis, and the person should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease. There are several prescription medications that are available to treat chronic hepatitis B. There are other things that people with HBV can do:

  • Rest.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not inject or snort drugs.
  • Only take medications that are approved by your healthcare provider.
  • Get hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations.
  • Do not donate your blood, body organs, tissue, or sperm.
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal-care articles that might have blood or other bodily fluids on them.
  • Cover your cuts and open sores.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex.