Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver that is caused by a virus. It is diagnosed with a blood test. Most Hepatitis B infections are short-term, or acute, and do not cause lasting health problems. However, in about 5% of adult cases, Hepatitis B becomes a long-term (chronic) condition. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to more serious liver diseases, including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Approximately 15 to 25% of chronically infected persons will die from chronic liver disease.
The Hepatitis B virus passes from one person to another through body fluids, such as blood, semen and vaginal secretions. The Hepatitis B virus can be spread from a mother to her child during birth. Other common causes of transmission include:
- sexual contact
- sharing needles among IV drug users
- sharing razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
- being exposed to wounds, blood, or secretions from infected persons
Generally acute Hepatitis B will naturally run it course and go away on its own.
Reduction of the pace of daily activities and a balanced diet with plenty of fluids is helpful. Alcohol and herbal supplements should be avoided.
Immunization with a vaccine is the best way to prevent Hepatitis B.
International travelers who expect to have close contact with residents in countries or regions where there is a high rate of Hepatitis B infection should consider immunization.