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About Hepatitis B

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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I have cancer. My doctor wants to screen me for hepatitis B before starting immunosuppressive treatment. Why is this?

I'm pregnant. Should I be screened for hepatitis B?

Can hepatitis B be spread through sex?

If I had hepatitis B before, can I get it again?

How does the hepatitis B vaccine work?

Can I get the hepatitis B virus from the vaccine?

Is the hepatitis B vaccine safe?

If I have hepatitis B, can I donate blood or organs?

I have symptoms. Does this mean I have a chronic infection?

How soon after I get hepatitis B can I expect to see symptoms?

Contact Us

  • 619-543-5415



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