STI Info: Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus.
Only 50% 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; yellow skin or yellowing of the whites of your eyes (jaundice); tiredness; loss of appetite; nausea; abdominal discomfort; dark urine; grey-colored bowel movements; or joint pain.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one out of 20 people in the United States have been infected with HBV some time during their lives. In 2004, an estimated 60,000 people were infected with HBV.
HBV is found mainly in human blood but can also be found in some mucous membranes. These include fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, and wound exudates. Exposure to these fluids can result in the contraction of the virus.
HBV is spread through:
- Vaginal, anal, and oral sex
- Sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, etc.
- Sharing needles
HBV is NOT spread through:
- Food or water
- Sharing eating utensils
- Hugging, kissing
- Coughing, sneezing
- Casual contact.
HBV is diagnosed through a blood test given by a health care professional called Serologic Testing. 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:
- Eastern Illinois University Health Service: Blood Test - $30
- Phone: (217) 581-3013
There are no medications available for recently acquired 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.
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.