Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a type of liver disease that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can be acute or chronic.

  • Acute hepatitis B is short term infection that can last weeks to months and often your body is able to clear the virus on its own
  • Chronic Hepatitis B is a long lasting infection that happens when your body can not clear the hepatitis B virus. This type of hepatitis is more common in infants and young children and without treatment can lead to liver damage and possible liver failure

What causes Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a caused by a virus that is spread through your body after coming in contact with infected person’s blood or body fluids such as semen.  A person is at increased risk of obtaining Hepatitis C by:

  • Pregnant females infected with Hepatitis B may pass the virus to their baby during childbirth
  • accidental needle stick
  • sharing needles with an infected person
  • Having unprotected sexual with an infected person

It is not clear why some children completely recover from the hepatitis B virus while other children do not and go on to develop chronic hepatitis B.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Many infected people have no symptoms at all. However, symptoms happen they usually happen approximately 45 to 160 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain or upset stomach
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle and joint soreness or pain
  • Rashes
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes)

How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

Hepatitis B is diagnosed by:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Liver biopsy

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis B?

Yes, a vaccine for Hepatitis B is available to protect against contracting the virus. It is recommended for all children especially children with the following:

  • Chronic liver problems
  • Infants born to infected mothers
  • Living with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Who may be exposed to someone at work who has hepatitis B
  • More than one sex partner

What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?

There is no cure for chronic hepatitis B infection. Treatment includes medications that control the virus so further damage does not happen to the liver. These medications include:

  • Interferon
  • Antivirals

A liver transplant may be necessary if chronic hepatitis B infection leads to liver failure


GI Kids-Hepatitis B
Liver-Hepatitis B
NIDDK-Hepatitis B

REMINDER: This information is intended to provide general information and should not be used to base a diagnosis or treatment. Please consult the doctors about your specific condition and the approach for treatment.