Health Conditions

Protect Yourself from Hepatitis B

Protect Yourself from Hepatitis B

The Basics

Overview

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 (long-term) hepatitis B — a lifelong infection that can lead to liver disease, liver cancer, and even death.

The good news is there’s a vaccine (shot) to prevent hepatitis B.

To protect yourself and your family from hepatitis B:

  • Make sure your children get the hepatitis B vaccine and ask your doctor if you need it
  • Get tested for hepatitis B if you're pregnant or at risk for infection
  • Be safe when you travel to countries where hepatitis B is common

Do I need the hepatitis B vaccine?

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for:

  • All babies at birth
  • Anyone under age 19 who didn’t get the vaccine as a baby
  • Adults who are at risk for hepatitis B
  • Anyone who wants to protect themselves from 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.

Testing

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. Learn why the hepatitis B test is important for pregnant women [PDF - 859 KB].

Other people need to get tested if they're at risk for hepatitis B. For example, you're at risk if you:

  • Were born in a place where hepatitis B is common, like certain countries in Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean
  • Have parents who were born in a place where hepatitis B is common
  • Use drugs with needles
  • Live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Are taking medicine that weakens your immune system
  • Have been in jail or prison

You’re also at risk if you have certain health conditions. For example:

  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Kidney failure
  • Chronic liver disease

Treatment

Is hepatitis B treatable?

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. For many people, acute hepatitis goes away by itself and never becomes a chronic problem.

Some people with acute hepatitis B don't have any symptoms and don't need treatment. Others have mild symptoms that might feel like the flu. When symptoms happen, they usually last a few weeks — though they can last longer. It’s also possible for people with acute hepatitis B to get very sick and need to go to the hospital.

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 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

Get the Vaccine

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

Get the hepatitis B vaccine.

If you haven’t gotten the hepatitis B vaccine and you think you might be at risk, talk with your doctor or nurse about getting vaccinated.

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

Keep in mind that if you’ve had hepatitis B in the past and recovered, you don’t need to get the vaccine.

Does my child need the hepatitis B vaccine?

Yes. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all babies. It’s usually given as a series of 3 or 4 shots, starting at birth.

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 vaccines on schedule.

Cost and Insurance

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover hepatitis B testing for:

  • All pregnant women at their first prenatal visit
  • Teens and adults who are at high risk

    Plans must also cover the hepatitis B vaccine for:

    • All children
    • Some adults, depending on their risk

    If you have Medicare or private insurance, check to find out what’s included in your plan.

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

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

    Get Tested

    Get tested for hepatitis B if you're at risk.

    Several things can raise your risk for hepatitis B. For example, you're at risk if you:

    • Were born in a place where hepatitis B is common, like certain countries in Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East, or the Caribbean
    • Have parents who were born in a place where hepatitis B is common
    • Use drugs with needles
    • Live with or have sex with someone who has hepatitis B
    • Are a man who has sex with men
    • Are taking medicine that weakens your immune system
    • Have been in jail or prison

    You’re also at risk if you have certain health conditions. For example:

    • HIV
    • Hepatitis C
    • Kidney failure
    • Chronic liver disease
       

    Travel Safely

    Travel smart.

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

    Learn more.

    Check out these questions and answers to find out more about hepatitis B symptoms, testing, and treatment.

    Content last updated July 20, 2022

    Reviewer Information

    This information on Hepatitis B was adapted primarily from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Reviewed by:
    Karen Resha, M.A.
    Senior Advisor, Health Communication
    National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & TB Prevention
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention