Health Article Detail

HEPATITIS B

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is very infectious (100 times more infectious than HIV) and very easily transmitted through unprotected sex or by sharing sharps.

HOW DO I GET INFECTED?

  • through unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex (sex without a condom)
  • as a result of blood-to-blood contact:
    • via sharing of injecting equipment, such as needles, spoons and filters
    • through the use of non-sterile needles for tattooing, piercing or acupuncture
  • Through transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, when giving birth or during breastfeeding.
  • if you work closely with blood and bodily fluids
  • There is also a small risk of catching the virus from sharing toothbrushes, razors or towels which may be contaminated with infected blood.

HOW DO I KNOW I MAY BE INFECTED?

  • Many people with hepatitis B do not even realise that they are infected and most people who are infected have no symptoms for many years.
  • Occasionally patients infected with hepatitis B may have some symptoms after the initial infection. These could be a mild flu-like illness, feeling sick and vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes, and dark urine) or itchy skin.
  • Blood test is a sure way to confirm diagnosis.

HOPE

Prevention through vaccination. A booster vaccination is recommended five years after completing the course if you remain at risk of infection

PEOPLE WHO ARE AT RISK OF INFECTION and should consider having the hepatitis vaccination;

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Anyone who has ever injected drugs
  • Anyone who has been paid for sex
  • Anyone who has paid for sex
  • Anyone who has had 9 or more sexual partners within the last 12 months
  • Anyone who has a sexual partner with Hepatitis B infection
  • Anyone who has been sexually assaulted recently

CAUTION

  • Use condoms if you must have sex and not certain about your partners status
  • Avoid sharing sharps
  • Wear protective clothing and covers if you usually come into contact with fluids from other people