Hep B can cause problems with a person’s liver.
If you are living with hep B (this is called chronic hep B) then the virus may damage your liver so that it cannot perform the many jobs it does to help keep you healthy.
There are two stages of hep B – acute and chronic.
Acute hep B
When people talk about acute hep B, they mean feeling ill when you first get the infection. Some people become quite unwell with nausea, abdominal discomfort and jaundice (yellow eyes, fingernails and skin) but many people develop no symptoms at all. Did you know that most people in the world with hep B contracted it in early childhood and didn’t have any symptoms of acute hep B?
Acute hep B lasts for several weeks or months but should be clear by six months. If you still have hep B after six months then you have chronic hep B.
Chronic hep B
Chronic hep B means you have been living with hep B for longer than six months. This means there is a high chance that you will be living with hep B for the rest of your life. There are treatments that can help manage chronic hep B but there is no cure at the moment.
What is it?
A liver infection caused by hep B virus.
Most people who get hep B as an adult clear the infection.
Most infants who get hep B at birth don’t clear their infection and have risk of liver disease later in life.
A window period is the time between infection and the illness showing up in the blood tests
The window period for hepatitis B is 4-6 weeks.
Mother to baby.
Blood-to-blood contact (when someone’s blood gets into
another person’s bloodstream).
What puts people at risk
Not being vaccinated as a baby.
Being born to a mum who has hep B.
Sexual contact with a person who has hep B.
Sharing fits and equipment when injecting drugs.
Having a needlestick injury.
Tattooing or body piercing with contaminated
Symptoms in short term infection
Often no symptoms, but if they do appear, they include jaundice, dark urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea and joint pain.
Symptoms in long term infection
Fatigue, nausea, muscle aches and pains or abdominal discomfort.
Yes. It is safe and effective.
It is part of universal childhood vaccination.
Newborn babies should be given an injection of immunoglobulin within 12 hours of birth.
Don’t share fits or other equipment when injecting drugs.
Avoid blood-to-blood contact.
Practice safer sex.
For chronic hep B: entecavir (Baraclude) or tenofovir (Viread).
Some people are treated with pegylated interferon.
Other medications are available but are less effective and not often used as a first option.
Talk to your doctor
Phone the Hepatitis Infoline for more information.
This page was last updated 23 March 2017.
Primary source for this page: HIV, Viral Hepatitis & STIs – a Guide for Primary Care Providers (ASHM 2014)
Content drawn from Australian Recommendations for the Management of Hepatitis C Virus Infection: a Consensus Statement 2016, and publications of ASHM, The Kirby Institute and The Centre for Social Research in Health, and vetted by our Medical and Research Advisory Panel.