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Protect Yourself from Hepatitis B

The Basics

Hepatitis B is a virus that spreads from person to person through blood, semen (cum), and fluids from the vagina. A mother with hepatitis B can also pass it to her baby at birth.

Some people who get hepatitis B can get rid of the virus. Others develop chronic hepatitis B – a lifelong infection that can lead to liver disease and even death.

To protect yourself from hepatitis B:

  • Get the hepatitis B vaccine (shot) if you need it – and make sure your children get it.
  • Get tested for hepatitis B if you are at risk for infection.
  • Be safe when you travel to countries where hepatitis B is common.

Get answers to common questions about hepatitis B.

Do I need the hepatitis B vaccine (shot)?
Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for:

  • All babies at birth
  • Anyone under age 19 who didn’t get the shots as a baby
  • Adults who are at risk for hepatitis B

If you think you might be at risk for hepatitis B, talk with your doctor or nurse about getting the vaccine. Find out more about who needs to get the hepatitis B vaccine.

Do I need to get tested for hepatitis B?
All pregnant women need to get tested for hepatitis B at their first prenatal doctor visit. See why the hepatitis B test is important for pregnant women.

Other people need to get tested if they are at risk for hepatitis B. You are at risk if you:

  • Were born in a place where hepatitis B is common, like Asia or Africa
  • Have parents who were born in a place where hepatitis B is common
  • Are HIV-positive
  • Use drugs with needles
  • Live with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Have sex with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Get kidney dialysis treatments

Can hepatitis B be treated?
Yes. The treatment for hepatitis B depends on the type of infection. The 2 types of hepatitis B infection are acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

Acute hepatitis B
When people first get infected with hepatitis B, it's called acute hepatitis B. Many people with acute hepatitis B don't have any symptoms and don't need treatment. Or they have mild symptoms that might feel like the flu.

Some people with acute hepatitis B get very sick and need to go to the hospital, but that's not common. For many people, acute hepatitis goes away by itself within 6 months.

Children under age 6 who get acute hepatitis B are at high risk for developing chronic hepatitis. That's why the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all babies.

Chronic hepatitis B
Some people who get acute hepatitis B will develop a chronic hepatitis B infection. This means the infection will never go away. People with chronic hepatitis B may need to take medicine to help stop the virus from causing liver damage.

Take Action!

Take Action!

Take these steps to help protect yourself and your children from hepatitis B.

Get the hepatitis B vaccine (shot).
If you haven’t gotten the hepatitis B vaccine and you think you might be at risk for hepatitis B, talk with your doctor or nurse about getting the shot. Keep in mind that the vaccine won't work if you've had hepatitis B in the past.

Use this locator tool to find a health center where you can get the hepatitis B vaccine.

Does my child need the hepatitis B vaccine?
Yes. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all babies at birth. It’s usually given as a series of 3 or 4 shots.

The hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for children and teens who didn’t get the shots as babies. Read more about getting your child’s shots on schedule.

What about cost?
The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, covers:

  • Hepatitis B testing for all pregnant women at their first prenatal visit
  • Hepatitis B shots for some people who are at risk

If you have Medicare or private insurance, check to find out what’s included in your plan. Ask about the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t have insurance, you still may be able to get free or low-cost services.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

Get tested for hepatitis B if you are at risk.
You are at risk for having hepatitis B if you:

  • Were born in a place where hepatitis B is common, like Asia or Africa
  • Have parents who were born in a place where hepatitis B is common
  • Are HIV-positive
  • Use drugs with needles
  • Live with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Have sex with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men

Use this tool to see if you may need to get tested for hepatitis B. You can print out the results and take them with you to your next checkup.

Travel smart.
Hepatitis B is very common in some parts of the world. If you are planning a trip to an area where lots of people have hepatitis B, follow some basic steps for safe travel:

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