Hepatitis B

How is Hepatitis B Spread?

Hepatitis B is spread by direct contact with the blood, serum, or sexual fluids of an infected person. This can happen by sharing needles or having sex with somebody infected with Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B Fact Sheet (CDC) (PDF)

Hepatitis B Questions and Answers for the public (CDC)

Who Is At Risk For Hepatitis B?

People most likely to get Hepatitis B are:

  • People who live with or have sex with an infected person.
  • Men who have sex with men.
  • People who have multiple sex partners.
  • People who use injection drugs.
  • Immigrants and children of immigrants from areas with high rates of Hepatitis B.
  • Infants born to an infected mother.
  • Health care workers.
  • Hemodialysis patients.
  • People who received a blood transfusion or blood products before 1987.
  • International travelers.

Preventing Hepatitis B

The Hepatitis B vaccine offers the best protection.

  • All infants and unvaccinated children, adolescents, and adults 19 through 59 years of age should be vaccinated.
  • Adults aged 60 years and older with risk factors for hepatitis B should also be vaccinated for hepatitis B. Adults aged 60 years and older without known risk factors for hepatitis B may receive hepatitis B vaccination.
  • For people who have not been vaccinated, reducing exposure to the virus can help prevent Hepatitis B.
    • Reducing exposure means using latex condoms, which may lower the risk of transmission; not sharing any blood testing devices, needles or drug equipment; and not sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers with an infected person.

Treatment for Hepatitis B

Drugs approved for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis B include alpha interferon and peginterferon, which slow the replication of the virus in the body and also boost the immune system, and the antiviral drugs lamivudine, adefovir dipivoxil, entecavir, and telbivudine. Other drugs are also being evaluated.

Infants born to infected mothers should receive Hepatitis B immune globulin and the Hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth the help prevent infection.

People who develop acute Hepatitis B are generally not treated with antiviral drugs because, depending on their age at infection, the disease often resolves on its own.

Infected newborns are most likely to progress to chronic Hepatitis B, but by young adulthood, most people with acute infection recover on their own.

Severe acute Hepatitis B can be treated with an antiviral drug such as lamivudine.

For More Information

Call the Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program 360-236-3498 or toll free 866-917-4HEP, or the Immunization Program, 360-236-3595 or Communicable Disease Epidemiology, 206-418-5500 or toll-free 877-539-4344.