Transmission of hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is found in blood and body fluids including saliva, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. The most common ways hepatitis B is spread include:
- sexual contact
- sharing of injecting equipment
- needlestick injuries in the health care setting
- reuse of unsterilised or inadequately sterilised needles
- child-to-child transmission through household contact such as biting
- sharing personal items such as razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
- Mother to baby (the Australian vaccination program has significantly reduced this risk through administration of the vaccine within twelve hours of birth).
Hepatitis B is NOT spread by contaminated food or water, and cannot be spread through casual or social contact such as kissing, sneezing or coughing, hugging or eating food prepared by a person with hepatitis B.
To avoid transmission of hepatitis B:
- consider being vaccinated (see below for more details);
- practice safe sex (use a condom)
- wash hands after touching blood or body fluids
- wear disposable gloves if giving someone first aid, or cleaning up blood or body fluids
- avoid sharing toothbrushes, razors, needles, syringes, personal hygiene items and grooming aids or any object that may come into contact with blood or body fluids
- use new and sterile injecting equipment for each injection
- cover all cuts and open sores with a bandaid or bandage
- wipe up any blood spills and then clean the area with household bleach
- throw away personal items such as tissues, menstrual pads, tampons and bandages in a sealed plastic bag.
People who have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus and who have not been vaccinated should receive hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) within 72 hours of exposure, and a dose of hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible or within 7 days of the exposure from their general practitioner or local emergency department.
Page Updated: 05 Feb 2013