Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. 

How is it spread?

The virus is spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person, such as; 

  • by having unprotected (without a condom) vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected
  • from mother to baby
  • sharing items that may pierce the skin or have blood on them (needles, syringes, unsterilised instruments, razors, toothbrushes)
  • blood transfusion (in countries that do not pre-test blood for transfusion).

What are the symptoms?

Although there are often no symptoms, they can include:

  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • dark urine
  • mild flu-like symptoms
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea

How do you treat Hepatitis B? 

To recover, you should eat a well-balanced, low fat diet, and make sure you rest and get some exercise. It is best to avoid alcohol and drugs, as well as sexual contact, until you are better. If you are using any other medicines, check with your doctor that they don’t affect your liver.

There are vaccines available for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These stop you getting the infection if the first place.

Does having Hepatits B affect my partners?

In New Zealand, free immunisation is available for the household and sexual contacts of people known to carry hepatitis B. If your partner is not immunised, you should always use a condom. Protection is offered to babies on the immunisation schedule and to children under 16 years.