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Sexually Transmitted Disease Program - STD Information - Hepatitis B


Hepatitis B

Free or low cost Hepatitis A and B Vaccine is available in LA County

Facts

  • Caused by a virus
  • HBV can live outside the body on surfaces for up to 10 days
  • Highly infectious. HBV is probably the most infectious of all the types of hepatitis. It is 100 times more infectious than HIV.
  • Lives in the liver and spreads through the blood
  • Approximately two-thirds of the total new HBV cases among U.S. adults are spread sexually
  • HBV is responsible for 80% of liver cancers
  • It is estimated that 1.2 million Americans are chronically infected with HBV
  • HBV kills 4,000-5,000 people each year

How do you get it?
You can get hepatitis B by having unprotected vaginal and anal sex (oral sex may be possible) with someone who has hepatitis B, sharing needles (for drugs, tattoos, and body piercing). Other modes of transmission include needle-sticks at work, babies born to HBV-infected mothers (the virus is passed only during delivery, not during pregnancy), sharing razor blades or toothbrushes. Hepatitis B is acquired through contact with blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. There are low/undetectable levels in breast milk; breast feeding is still recommended. High-risk groups include injection drug users, healthcare workers, sexual/household contacts of infected persons, immigrants from endemic areas, hemodialysis patients, people engaging in anal intercourse, and prisoners. You may also get it from a carrier who is not having symptoms and may or may not know she/he has HBV.

Symptoms
About 30% of adults and 90% of babies and immunosuppressed adults are asymptomatic. HBV is most dangerous to infants. Nearly 90% of adults recover from the virus on their own. Some people experience a flu-like syndrome (fever, headache and muscle aches). Acute symptoms (indication of your body trying to fight off the hepatitis B virus) include jaundice, dark urine, loss of appetite, stomach pain, extreme fatigue, and itching.

Complications
Long-term complications include liver failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and liver cancer, all of which may result in death. 

Testing
To get tested for hepatitis B, go to a doctor or a health clinic. A blood test is needed to test for hepatitis B.

Treatment

  • Rest
  • Diet -- low protein (meat & beans) and high carbohydrates (breads & cereals)
  • The only accepted treatment for liver failure is a transplant (including live donor transplants), with survival rates of 60-70%
  • Recovery from cirrhosis or liver cancer is rare
  •  Drinking alcohol complicates survival, because it puts an added strain on the liver
  • Some drug therapies are available but are only effective in 35% of patients who are able to take medication (many cannot)

Prevention

  • Immunization – vaccination series of three shots, over a six-month period (see our Hepatitis A and B Vaccination page for free or low cost vaccination)
  • Booster shots not recommended (except for hemodialysis patients)
  • Prenatal screening and immunization
  • Safer sex – latex condoms provide the best protection, talk to your sex partners about STDs before having sex, and limit number of sex partners as it may lower chances of getting infected
  • Not sharing syringes/needles, razors, or toothbrushes. HBV is much easier to transmit than HIV.
  • Clean up any potentially infectious blood with bleach and wear protective (latex) gloves.


For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our
STD Testing & Services section.

 

Tell Your Partners


In Los Angeles, there's an easy way to tell your sex partners you have an STD or HIV. Send them a free inSPOTLA ecard, ANONYMOUSLY or from your email address, right here.

STD Program Hotline
1-800-758-0880

STD information and referrals to STD clinics and HIV test sites in LA County.

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Health Educators available M-F 9am - 5pm (PST) in English and Spanish.
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