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STI Info: Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B Virus or HBV is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis virus. It can range from a mild illness to a lifelong illness and can either be acute or chronic. Acute HBV is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months of exposure. This type of infection can lead to chronic HBV. Chronic Hepatitis B virus is a long-term illness that remains in the individual’s body.

Symptoms

About 70% of newly acquired individuals with HBV show symptoms. Older individuals are more likely to show symptoms and to have the more severe and chronic type of HBV. When symptoms do appear they include: Fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark, urine, join pain, yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of your eyes (jaundice), or clay-colored bowel movements.

Cases

According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2007, 43,000 new Hepatitis B virus infections occurred in the United States. Acute HBV has declined 82% since 1990 due to the routine vaccine given to children. Around 800,000 to 1.4 million people have chronic HBV in the United States.

Transmission

HBV is found mainly in human blood but can also be found in some mucous membranes. These include fluids such as semen, or other bodily fluids infected with Hepatitis B. Exposure to these fluids can result in the contraction of the virus. Hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.

HBV is spread through:

  • Vaginal, anal, and oral sex with an infected partner
  • Sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, etc.
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injected equipment
  • Direct contact with blood or open sores of an infected person
  • Exposure to blood from needles or other sharp instruments

HBV is NOT spread through:

  • Food or water
  • Sharing eating utensils
  • Breastfeeding
  • Hugging, kissing
  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Holding hands

Diagnosis and Treatment

HBV is diagnosed through a blood test given by a health care professional. During analysis, health care professionals look for the antibodies HBsAg and anti-HBc that are characteristic of an HBV infection.

Local Testing is Available at:

Cure

There are no medications available for acute HBV. For cases of chronic HBV, there are antiviral medications to manage the symptoms. In addition, any sexually partners should also be tested and treated in order for the medications to work properly.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

Hepatitis B vaccine is the best prevention against hepatitis B, yet the only 100% effective way to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as Hepatitis B is to abstain from sexual activity where there is a transmission of bodily fluids. If you choose to be sexually active, being in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected significantly reduces your risk of infection. In addition, reducing your number of sexual partners can help to reduce your risk. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, may reduce the risk of Hepatitis B transmission. In addition, abstaining from intravenous drug use in which needles are shared greatly reduces your risk of infection.