• Hepatitis B the most common liver virus in the world
  • there is a highly effective vaccine to protect against hepatitis B infection
  • treatment is available to manage but not cure hepatitis B 

Hepatitis B is transmitted from one person to another through blood or during unprotected sex. It is not transmitted through saliva.

Once the virus reaches the liver it attaches itself to healthy liver cells and multiplies, triggering a response from your body’s immune system. At this early stage of infection, you may not be aware you have hepatitis B.

How hep B affects each person is very complex, but the main predictor of its progress is the age at which the person was infected:

  • infants rarely experience symptoms of acute infection, but 90% will develop chronic or life-long infection
  • children rarely experience symptoms of acute infection, but 30% will develop chronic or life-long infection
  • adults or teens infected with hep B usually experience symptoms of acute infection, however less than 5% develop chronic (life-long) infection.

Acute hepatitis B is the first six months of the infection. People who continue to have hepatitis B after six months fall are considered to have chronic hepatitis B, which is life-long.

It must be stressed that if chronic hepatitis B is not managed appropriately, infection can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure and ultimately, liver cancer. The good news is there are treatments available to help reduce effect on the liver.

Finding out if you have hepatitis B is simple. Your doctor can do blood tests to see if you have ever come into contact with the virus and whether or not you currently have the hepatitis B virus in your blood. If you do have the virus the doctor may then do other tests to check how much damage may have been done to your liver.

If you don’t have hepatitis B you can be vaccinated to protect you against it in the future.

Download this factsheet

More information about hepatitis B

Use the following links to learn more about hepatitis B:

Testing for Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B Vaccination

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B Treatment

Page Updated: 30 May 2019