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What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a serious disease of the liver caused by a virus. Hepatitis B can lead to severe illness, liver damage, and sometimes death.
How is it spread?
You get hepatitis B by direct contact with blood or certain body fluids, such as semen and vaginal secretions, of a person who has it. For example, you can get it by having sex or sharing needles with a person who has it. It may also be spread within households if razors, toothbrushes or other items are shared. A baby can get it from its mother during birth. Approximately 25 percent of all persons with hepatitis B have no idea how they got it.
Who is at risk for hepatitis B?
One out of every 20 people will get hepatitis B some time in their lives. Your risk is higher if you:
What symptoms should I watch for?
Half of all adults do not have any symptoms. It takes between six weeks and six months to get sick after you contract the virus. If you have symptoms, they might be:
How can I protect myself?
Who is a carrier of hepatitis B?
Sometimes, people who have hepatitis B never recover fully and still carry the virus in their body. About 1.25 million people in the U.S. carry hepatitis B. They can infect others for the rest of their lives. Periodic follow up visits to the doctor are recommended, even if individuals no longer feel ill.