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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus. It is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids (e.g. blood) infected with the hepatitis B virus. The virus is not transmitted by casual contact or by sharing food/drink.

Hepatitis B is usually a short illness with complete recovery in approximately 90% of cases. However, chronic hepatitis B does occur in 10% of cases. Some patients who have chronic hepatitis B never show liver damage, while some may develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.


The incubation period of hepatitis B varies greatly from person to person, ranging from a few weeks to 6 months. Some people infected with the virus will not show symptoms for years. When symptoms do show, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Skin rash
  • Jaundice


A blood test is required to make the diagnosis.  A liver biopsy may be necessary to determine the extent of the patient’s liver damage.


Effective antiviral therapy is available for patients with chronic hepatitis B. These medications are very effective at slowing the production of virus and minimizing liver damage.

Taking the medication hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours of exposure to hepatitis B may reduce the illness’s length and severity.


A hepatitis B vaccine is available for long-term protection.

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