Hepatitis B


Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can be categorized into two forms: acute and chronic. Most individuals experience acute hepatitis B, which typically lasts less than six months and resolves on its own. However, for some individuals, the infection becomes chronic, persisting for more than six months. Chronic hepatitis B poses serious risks such as liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis, a condition characterized by permanent liver scarring.

While most adults recover fully from hepatitis B, even in cases of severe symptoms, infants and children are more prone to developing chronic infections. This chronic state of the disease can have long-lasting effects. Although a vaccine is available for preventing hepatitis B, there is currently no cure for those already infected. However, taking certain precautions can help minimize the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that specifically targets the liver, causing inflammation in its tissues. This inflammation, known as hepatitis, initiates as an acute infection that typically resolves within a short period. However, in some individuals, the infection persists and becomes chronic, leading to ongoing liver damage. Disturbingly, chronic hepatitis B can progress silently without causing noticeable symptoms, leaving many people unaware of their infection and the potential harm it can cause to their liver health.

Hepatitis B has distinct characteristics that differentiate it from other hepatitis viruses:

  • Preventability: Hepatitis B has a safe and effective vaccine, which sets it apart from other hepatitis viruses. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vaccination for all children, ideally shortly after birth.
  • Impact on children: Hepatitis B disproportionately affects children. While only 5% of infected adults develop chronic infections, the rate rises to 30% for children under the age of 6. This emphasizes the need for early detection and prevention strategies for pediatric populations.
  • Mother-to-child transmission: Hepatitis B can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. This mode of transmission accounts for a significant number of infections in infants. Up to 90% of infants infected with hepatitis B may develop a chronic infection.
  • Chronic infection management: Although chronic hepatitis B is not curable, it can be managed with antiviral medications. These medications help control the infection, but individuals with chronic hepatitis B need to take lifelong precautions to maintain the health of their liver.

Overall, the combination of preventability through vaccination, the increased susceptibility of children, the risk of mother-to-child transmission, and the need for long-term management distinguish hepatitis B from other hepatitis viruses.


Acute hepatitis B symptoms might be mild or severe. Although you could see them as soon as two weeks after infection, they often appear 1 to 4 months after infection. Young children are most often those who don’t exhibit any signs.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B might include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Extreme tiredness
  • The urine appears darker
  • Pain in the abdomen and joints
  • Jaundice, often known as a yellowing of the skin and eye whites

If you suspect that you have been exposed to hepatitis B or are experiencing symptoms, it is vital to contact your healthcare provider promptly. Seeking immediate medical attention within 24 hours of exposure can potentially lower the risk of infection through preventive treatment. Whether you suspect exposure or have symptoms, reaching out to your healthcare provider will enable them to evaluate your situation and provide appropriate guidance.


The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the principal cause of hepatitis B infection. Through blood, semen, or other bodily fluids, the virus is transferred from one person to another. It cannot be spread through coughing or sneezing.

Common methods of HBV transmission include:

  • Sexual contact. If you engage in unprotected sex with an infected person, you could contract hepatitis B. If the person’s blood, saliva, semen, or vaginal fluids get into your body, the virus can get into you.
  • Sharing of needles. Needles and syringes contaminated with infectious blood make HBV transmission simple. Hepatitis B infection is quite likely if you share IV medication supplies.
  • Accidental needle sticks. Health care professionals and everyone else who comes into contact with human blood should be concerned about hepatitis B.
  • Mother to child. HBV-positive pregnant mothers can deliver the virus to their unborn children. Almost always, though, the infant can be immunized to avoid contracting the infection. If you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for hepatitis B.

Acute vs. chronic hepatitis B

Acute hepatitis B infection, as the name suggests, can be transient. Or it could be persistent, lasting a long time.

  • Acute hepatitis B infection. Occurs for less than 6 months only. You should fully recover in a few months since your immune system should be able to rid your body of acute hepatitis B. The majority of individuals who have hepatitis B have an acute infection, but it can progress to a chronic infection.
  • Chronic hepatitis B infection. Persists for six months or longer, as it is challenging for the immune system to clear the infection. This long-lasting condition can continue throughout a person’s lifetime and potentially result in severe health conditions like cirrhosis and liver cancer. While some individuals with chronic hepatitis B may not experience any symptoms, others may encounter ongoing fatigue and mild symptoms resembling acute hepatitis.

The likelihood of developing chronic hepatitis B increases with age, especially in infants and children under the age of five. Before a person develops severe liver disease, a chronic infection may go unnoticed for years.

Risk factors

The transmission of Hepatitis B occurs through exposure to blood, semen, or other bodily fluids of an individual who is infected. Your likelihood of contracting Hepatitis B is elevated under the following circumstances:

  • Visit places like Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Eastern Europe where the prevalence of HBV infection is high.
  • Engage in unprotected sex with a number of partners or with an HBV carrier.
  • Living with a person who has chronic HBV infection increases your risk of contracting Hepatitis B.
  • Using the same needle when using Intravenous drugs
  • Babies born by a mother infected with hepatitis B
  • Being exposed to human blood at work
  • Homosexual relationship