Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus causes liver inflammation and can lead to liver disease.

How do you get hepatitis B?

You can get hepatitis B if the blood, semen, saliva or other body fluid from a person with hepatitis B enters your body. That means you can get hepatitis B from an infected person during condomless oral or anal sex, or by using an infected person’s toothbrush, razor or injection equipment.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B infection?

People who have hepatitis B infection may experience mild flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, joint and muscle pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes or urine). Symptoms may take between one and six months to appear. Some people do not get any symptoms.

Most adults will recover completely from hepatitis B without treatment. But some people may develop a chronic hepatitis B infection, which lasts for more than 6 months. People who develop a chronic hepatitis B infection may be at risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Testing

A blood test is used to diagnose hepatitis B. People who have had hepatitis B once already probably won’t get it again. This is because they developed antibodies to it when they first were infected and now they are immune to the infection. For people who don’t naturally recover from hepatitis B on their own, the infection is monitored with blood tests called liver function tests. We don’t test for hepatitis B at Strut, but we do provide preventative hepatitis A and B vaccinations.

Can hepatitis B be treated?

There is no cure for hepatitis B, but most people clear the infection from their body on their own. People who do develop chronic hepatitis B should speak to their regular doctor about treatment options. People with liver damage may need to be treated while people without liver damage may not need treatment.

The treatment options won’t cure hepatitis B, but they can decrease the severity of the infection and prevent liver damage. Sometimes, people are prescribed antiviral medications, like Truvada, which can be used to treat hepatitis B.

How can hepatitis B be prevented?

Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccination that’s delivered in a series of three doses. The second dose is delivered 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third dose is delivered 2 to 5 months after the second. There’s also a combination hepatitis A and B vaccination (see hepatitis A page for details).

To reduce the risk of getting or giving hepatitis B:

  • Use condoms and water-based lube during sex (change between partners);
  • Use gloves and lube during fisting (change between partners);
  • Don’t share sex toys (or put condoms on insertive toys and change them between partners);
  • Wash your hands and sex toys after sex and between partners;
  • Don’t share injection equipment such as needles, syringes, swabs, spoons, filters, water and tourniquets. Use new equipment, and wash your hands before and after injecting;
  • Don’t share toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers, or nail scissors;
  • Make sure body artists use sterile equipment for tattoos, piercings, and other body art; and,
  • Wear disposable gloves if you give someone first aid or are cleaning up blood or other body fluids.

Hepatitis B & HIV

People with HIV that get hepatitis B might have to temporarily stop taking their antiretroviral HIV medications and medications they may take for opportunistic infections. This is because many HIV medications are processed by the liver, and can’t be tolerated during acute hepatitis B illness.

People with HIV who get hepatitis B may experience a more rapid progression of their HIV illness, although studies have not established this entirely.