Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B Overview

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact, sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment, or during pregnancy or delivery.

Read more about hepatitis A and how it affects people on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

Not all people with a new HBV infection have symptoms. The presence of signs and symptoms varies by age. Infants, children under 5 years old, and immunosuppressed adults with a HBV infection are typically asymptomatic. People less than 30 years old are less likely to show symptoms compared with persons aged 30 years and older. When present, signs and symptoms of HBV infections can include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • clay-colored stool
  • joint pain
  • jaundice

Most people with long-term HBV infection are asymptomatic and have no evidence of liver disease or injury. However, some people develop chronic hepatitis, liver scarring and failure (cirrhosis), or liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).

Who is at risk?

There are many groups of people at higher risk for Hepatitis B, including:

  • Infants born to a person infected with hepatitis B.
  • People who inject drugs or share needles, syringes, or other drug equipment.
  • People who have contact with others who have hepatitis B, including household members or sexual contacts.
  • People with certain medical conditions, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and dialysis patients.
  • People born in countries with higher rates of hepatitis B.
  • People born in the U.S. but not vaccinated as infants.
  • People in jail, prison, or other detention settings.

Limit the spread of hepatitis B

The best way to prevent hepatitis B is with the hepatitis B vaccine.

Hepatitis B can live outside of the body and infect others for at least 7 days. It is important to stop the spread of germs by washing your hands well. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds after you use the bathroom or change a diaper, and before you make or eat food.

If you were exposed to hepatitis B recently and you haven't gotten the hepatitis B vaccine, you should get the vaccine within two weeks. If you are over age 40 or have health conditions that put you at high risk for the disease, a doctor or clinic may give you something called immune globulin as well as the vaccine.

Call your doctor, nurse, or clinic, or your local health department. They will tell you the steps to take next.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Who should get the hepatitis B vaccine?

  • All infants
  • All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated
  • Adults ages 19 through 59 years of age
  • Adults aged 60 years and older with risk factors for hepatitis B

Adults aged 60 years or older without known risk factors may get hepatitis vaccination.

People who have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the hepatitis B vaccine or who are known to be allergic to any part of the hepatitis B vaccine should not receive the vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.

What are the side effects of hepatitis B vaccine?

The most common side effect of getting a hepatitis B vaccine is having soreness at the injection site.

This vaccine is continually monitored for safety. The benefits and side effects of this vaccine outweigh the risk of getting hepatitis B.

Why is hepatitis B vaccine important?

Completing the hepatitis B vaccine series is effective at preventing the disease.

Getting vaccinated protects yourself, your family, and others in the community.

Since the hepatitis B vaccine was first recommended in 1996, cases of hepatitis B in the United States declined dramatically.

Even with fewer cases, vaccines are still important because the United States still has outbreaks of disease in unvaccinated populations.

Hepatitis B vaccine and pregnancy

Can hepatitis B vaccine be given during pregnancy or breast feeding?

Yes. The hepatitis B vaccine does not contain live virus, so neither pregnancy nor breastfeeding should be considered a reason not to get vaccinated. However, of the five available adult vaccines against hepatitis B, there is not enough data on Heplisav-B and PreHevbrio to know if the vaccines are safe to give in pregnancy or during breastfeeding. Thus, pregnant women who need hepatitis B vaccination should receive Engerix-B, Recombivax HB, or Twinrix.

What should I do if I received the HEPLISAV-B vaccine while pregnant?

There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in people who received HEPLISAV-B during pregnancy. A pregnancy exposure registry is a study that collects health information from people who take prescription medicines or vaccines when they are pregnant.

Toll-free number: 1-844-443-7734
Email: heplisavbpregnancyregistry@ppdi.com

What should I do if I received the PreHevbrio vaccine while pregnant?

There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in people who received PREHEVBRIO during pregnancy. If you received PREHEVBRIO during pregnancy, you should contact 1-888-421-8808 (toll-free).You may also wish to visit a pregnancy exposure registry which is a study that collects health information from people who take prescription medicines or vaccines when they are pregnant.

Why is the hepatitis B vaccine recommended for all babies?

Nearly all newborns who become infected with the hepatitis B virus develop lifelong hepatitis B. This can eventually lead to serious health problems, including liver damage, liver cancer, and even death. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for all babies to protect them from this serious but preventable disease.

Vaccine Information Statement and Resources

The Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is given to parents/guardians at the time of vaccination. It explains the benefits and risks of the specific vaccination.

Read the current Hepatitis B VIS from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additional resources for the public

Hepatitis B Overview (CDC)

Additional resources for health care providers

Hepatitis B Vaccination Page for Healthcare Professionals (CDC)

Childhood Vaccine Program

The Washington State Childhood Vaccination Program provides vaccines to children 18 years of age and younger at no cost. Hepatitis B is included in this program.

View participating health care providers on the Department of Health’s Vaccine Provider Map.