At UC San Diego Health, our specialists provide the most comprehensive care for hepatitis. Learn more about how we diagnose and treat acute and chronic hepatitis B.
Facts About Hepatitis B
People of Asian Descent: Get Tested
Two-thirds of the 240 million people in the world who have a chronic hepatitis B are from Asia. If you or your parents emigrated to the U.S. from Asia, get tested! Other high-risk groups include immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
- A "silent disease." It can live in your body for 50+ years before you have symptoms.
- Responsible for 80 percent of all liver cancer in the world.
- Harder to fight off the younger you are; 90 percent of babies will go on to develop a chronic infection compared to 5 to 10 percent of adults.
- 100 times more contagious than AIDS.
- Responsible for approximately 600,000 deaths worldwide each year.
- The tenth leading cause of death worldwide.
Who is at Risk for Hepatitis B?
People who are at a higher risk for hepatitis B include those who:
- Were born in or have a parent who was born in Asia or other high-risk areas such as sub-Saharan Africa
- Share IV drug needles
- Have sex with a person who is infected
- Have received a blood transfusion before implementation of universal screening in the late 1970s and '80s
- Have never been screened or vaccinated for hepatitis B
If you have an increased risk of hepatitis B due to job, lifestyle choices, or contact with an infected family member at home, you should get the hepatitis B vaccine. If you think you may already be infected, schedule a screening as soon as possible by calling 619-543-5415.
A Dangerous Disease
A chronic hepatitis B infection can go undetected for years – even decades in many cases. The longer a hepatitis B infection is left untreated, the more susceptible you are to developing severe scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.
How Do You Get Hepatitis B?
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted when an infected person’s blood or body fluids (such as saliva or semen) enter your bloodstream.
Ways hepatitis B is spread:
- Sharing IV needles
- Unprotected sex
- Sharing razors or toothbrushes
- From mother to newborn during the delivery process
In the U.S., hepatitis B is spread primarily through sexual transmission and contaminated needles. In other areas of the world, such as Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, hepatitis B is spread through birth.
Hepatitis B is not a genetic disease, although a majority of chronic infections occur by transmission from mother to baby at the time of birth. Also, it cannot be transmitted:
- Through food or water
- By hugging
- Through sneezing or coughing
Frequently Asked Questions About Hepatitis B
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