Hepatitis B Prevention & Risks

Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, June 12, 2017

How is hepatitis B spread?

The hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with blood or other body fluids.This can happen during sex or sharing needles with someone who has the virus. While rare, hepatitis B can be transmitted during oral sex. according to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), each year, half of the people newly infected with acute hepatitis B (HBV) get the virus through sexual intercourse.

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Who is at a higher risk for hepatitis B infection?

  • Sexually active people who have multiple partners or a non-monogamous partner
  • Healthcare workers who may be exposed to blood or body fluids
  • Men who have sex with men
  • IV drug users

Can a person infect someone with hepatitis B and not know it?

Yes. Many people with chronic hepatitis B are unaware that they're infected since they don't feel sick.

Is there a vaccine for hepatitis B?

Yes, there is a vaccine for hepatitis B and most states require it for school entry. If you have not been vaccinated for hepatitis B or don't know if you've been vaccinated, or don't know if you've been vaccinated, ask your healthcare provider for a vaccination. It's typically given in 3 doses over several months for complete immunity to the infection.

How can I prevent getting or spreading hepatitis B?

Other than getting vaccinated, not having sex at all is the only way to be 100% safe from getting hepatitis B. If you are sexually active, a latex condom is the best way to decrease the chances of getting hepatitis B through sex. That goes for vaginal, anal and oral sex involving penises or sex toys. When it comes to oral sex involving the anus (rimming) or vagina, latex dams can reduce the risk of transmission. This is also the best way to decrease the chance of hepatitis B for women having vulva-to-vulva sex.

Can I get hepatitis B from insect bites or mosquitoes?

No. There are also no known cases worldwide of hepatitis B spreading through mosquitoes. The virus can't be passed through normal skin contact, kissing, sharing utensils or drinking glasses, coughing, sneezing or breastfeeding.

What are the complications from untreated hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B becomes chronic when the body can't get rid of the virus. If it goes untreated, it can lead to a liver diseases called cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer or complete liver failure. Symptoms of cirrhosis include yellowing of the skin and eyes, swollen stomach, fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and weakness.

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