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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B (HBV) is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. It's much easier to get than HIV, and can cause permanent liver disease and cancer. Most people have no obvious symptoms, and there is no known cure.

Signs and symptoms

There often aren't any symptoms. If there are they may include:

  • A short, flu-like illness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin

How do you get it?

  • Unprotected penetrative sex (where the penis enters the vagina or anus) or sex which draws blood.
  • Oral sex (from mouth to the genitals).
  • Sharing needles or other drug injecting equipment contaminated with blood.
  • Using equipment for tattooing, acupuncture or body-piercing contaminated with blood.
  • From an infected mother to her baby.
  • Through a blood transfusion in a country where blood is not tested - all blood for transfusion is tested in the UK.

Testing and treatment

Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. Most people who acquire Hepatitis B as adults will clear the infection and become immune. Those who remain infected can get treatment though it is not always successful. A vaccine is also available to help protect against Hepatitis B.

Long-term effects

You are at risk of chronic liver disease. Always wear a condom and avoid sharing toothbrushes or razors as Hepatitis B can be passed on this way.