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Hepatitis B is a viral infection which can be passed on through blood, semen and vaginal fluids.
Hep B can be passed on by having sex without a condom with someone who has Hep B. It can also be passed on by sharing injecting equipment or from tattooing or body piercing with unsterile equipment.
An estimated 232,000 people are living in Australia with Hep B infection. Hep B infection can have serious health effects.
The Hep B virus is found in blood and in other bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid and saliva.
You can get Hep B when the blood or body fluids of a person with Hep B enters your blood stream or body, as follows:
All blood and blood products produced for medical purposes in Australia are carefully screened for Hep B and other blood-borne viruses.
If you think you've been exposed to Hep B, see your doctor immediately. In some instances, your doctor may be able to give you treatment which greatly reduces the risk of you becoming infected.
Many people who become infected with Hep B show no signs of infection.
Children are less likely to have symptoms than adults.
If symptoms are present, they often last only a few weeks and may include:
In more severe cases, additional symptoms can occur:
Most adults infected with Hep B completely recover and do not become infected again.
About 5% of adults who become infected with the Hep B virus develop long term (or chronic) Hep B infection.
Chronic infection means the virus stays in the bloodstream for a person’s entire life. A person with chronic Hep B may carry and transmit the virus for life without showing any signs or symptoms and may not know they have it.
Chronic infection increases the risk of a person developing cirrhosis and liver cancer in later life.
A blood test can tell if you have been infected with Hep B or have been vaccinated against it.
If your body gets rid of the virus itself, you will require no treatment.
If you develop chronic Hep B, you should discuss treatment options and lifestyle changes with your doctor.
Antiviral medications are available to try to get rid of the virus and reduce liver damage. Your doctor may also refer you to a liver specialist and regularly monitor your health.
You can protect yourself from Hep B by:
For adults, a full course of Hep B vaccination consists of 3 doses over six months. All 3 doses are required to give 90% protection.
Vaccination for Hep B is recommended and available for in Victoria on the National Immunisation Program Schedule for the following groups:
People from the following groups are also recommended to be vaccinated against Hep B:
Side effects of the Hep B vaccination are uncommon, but may include:
This fact sheet provides general sexual health information and is not intended to replace the need for a consultation with your doctor.
If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your doctor.
If you require urgent care, you should go to your nearest Emergency Department or call 000.