What is it?
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that infects the liver
It can result in chronic life-long infection and is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease
What are the symptoms?
Tiredness, loss of appetite, fever, tenderness in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark-coloured urine, clay-coloured stools, nausea and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyeballs)
Symptoms occur 2-6 months after contact with the hepatitis B virus
How can I contract hepatitis B?
Blood to blood contact through infected needles, unsterilized medical or dental equipment, contaminated tools used for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture or injecting drugs
A toothbrush or razor shared with an infected person
Transmission from an infected mother to her newborn at birth
Blood transfusions in countries that have sub-optimal blood donor screening programs
You can also contract hepatitis B through unprotected sex with an infected person
Where can I contract it?
Hepatitis B occurs worldwide
The highest incidents occur in Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Africa and parts of Asia and the Middle East
What vaccines are available?
The hepatitis B vaccine on its own, or Twinrix (A and B) if you also want to get the hepatitis A vaccine at the same time
You need a series of shots to get immunity and several timing schedules are available
Immunity is life-long once completed in most people
Since 1982 in Canada, hepatitis B is part of routine childhood vaccination
How can I prevent hepatitis B?
Get vaccinated and take precautions when you are in situations where you are exposed to other people’s blood
What is the treatment?
Anti-viral treatments are available for chronic hepatitis B carriers but not everyone responds and it may not be effective