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Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver disease that can range from mild to a serious, lifelong illness. The Hepatitis B virus causes inflammation of the liver which may lead to liver cancer, liver failure and even death. There are two stages to the disease: acute and chronic.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B can show up with no signs or symptoms. When hepatitis B symptoms develop, it can feel like the flu. You may feel tired, not feel very hungry, vomit, have belly pain, and feel itchy. Symptoms of chronic hepatitis B may be associated with liver inflammation and can lead to liver cancer.

How do you get hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is spread by contact with an infected person’s blood or sexual fluids. This can happen during vaginal, anal, and oral sex or from sharing needles. People who have contact with blood, like healthcare professionals, or who share toothbrushes or razor blades with someone who is infected, are also at a greater risk for the virus. As this virus is spread through blood, people wonder if they can get it from a mosquito bite. The answer? No. There are no known cases worldwide of hepatitis B spread through mosquitos.

How do I get tested for hepatitis B?
The hepatitis B surface antigen with confirmation by neutralization test is a blood test that screens for early signs of the infection. The hepatitis B test is simple – one quick blood draw taken by our trained staff and you’ll be on your way. What is “confirmation by neutralization”? That means if you have a positive or borderline positive result, the lab will immediately run another test on the blood sample to confirm the finding, at no extra charge to you. When your results are ready, we’ll put you in touch with a physician on the phone. Depending on your situation, he or she will advise you on next steps and, if necessary, discuss treatment.

Is there a cure or treatment for hepatitis B?
First, there are two forms: acute and chronic. Caught early, acute hepatitis B is treated with bed rest and fluids to prevent dehydration. It’s a virus that can eventually go away but can take several months. Chronic hepatitis B develops over time and is not curable but there are treatments that can stop the virus from getting worse.

What if I don’t get hepatitis B treatment?
If you have hepatitis B and don’t know it, it can get worse. In some cases, chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and death if it’s not treated.

How can I prevent getting hepatitis B?
As with all STDs, use a condom every time you have sexual activity. Don’t share needles, razor blades, or toothbrushes with an infected person. And, yes, there is a hepatitis B vaccine. It is recommended for children and is required for entrance to school. What about adults? If you are at an increased risk for hepatitis B, you should be vaccinated. Who is at an increased risk for hepatitis B?

  • Healthcare workers and people who work with blood.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • Sexually active people who are not in exclusive relationships.
  • People who have an STD.
  • IV drug users.