- What is sexual health?
- What is safe sex?
- Sexual health checks
- Sexually transmissible infections (STI's)
Hepatitis B is a disease affecting the liver that can be mild or severe and can last for weeks or many years. Some people with hepatitis B have no symptoms, while others have severe illness that can cause death. An estimated 15% to 25% of carriers of hepatitis B will die early of either liver disease or liver cancer.
Some people with hepatitis B become chronic carriers of the virus, remaining infectious for life. These carriers can pass it to other people without knowing they are infectious.
In the early stage of infection, symptoms may include loss of appetite, slight pains in the tummy, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of whites of eyes and skin), rash, joint pain and mild fever. About one third of people develop a mild flu-like illness. The remaining third have no symptoms at all in the initial phase of the illness.
How do you get it?
The virus is spread through:
- contact with infected blood and/or other body fluids (eg. semen, vaginal fluid) – even if fluid comes in contact with a small cut, sore or abrasion, the risk is high
- sharing of drug needles or tattoo/body piercing tools
- unsafe sex
- a human bite.
If a pregnant mother is infected with hepatitis B, a baby can get the virus through contact with the mother's blood during childbirth.
What's the treatment?
If you have hepatitis B, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B infections. You need three needles over six months to provide long-term protection against the virus. People who are at high risk of the virus, such as injecting drug users, should be tested and vaccinated for hepatitis B. The vaccine is free in some health centres.