What Is Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is the most serious disease of the liver.
Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

HBV is a global epidemic

  • Although a safe and effective recombinant hepatitis B vaccine has been available since 1982, HBV still kills 600,000 people every year worldwide.
  • About 1 in 20 people in the world (350 million individuals) are living with chronic HBV infection.
  • Without appropriate monitoring or treatment, 1 in 4 of those chronically infected will die from liver cancer or liver failure.
  • Every 50 seconds, one person dies from this vaccine-preventable disease.



How is HBV transmitted?

HBV can be transmitted from a chronically infected mother to her child during the birthing process.  This is one of the most common modes of transmission for Asians.  Many pregnant mothers with chronic hepatitis B are unaware of their infection and end up silently passing the virus to the next generation.

HBV can be transmitted through direct contact with infected blood.  This includes:

  • Wound-to-wound contact
  • Reusing or sharing needles for tattoos, piercings, acupuncture, or injection drugs
  • Reusing syringes or medical devices
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes contaminated by blood
  • Blood transfusions

HBV can be transmitted through unprotected sex with a person infected with HBV.  The use of condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of infection.  Vaccination remains the most effective way to protect against HBV.

HBV is NOT transmitted through food or water. 
It is not spread through:

  • Sharing food or water
  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses
  • Tears, sweat, urine, or stool
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Hugging or kissing
  • Breastfeeding
  • Mosquitoes


What are the symptoms?

  • Chronic HBV infection is dangerous because there are often no symptoms (even liver blood tests may be normal).
  • As many as 2 out of 3 chronically infected persons are not aware they have been infected.
  • By the time symptoms such as abdominal pain, abdominal distension or jaundice (dark urine and yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes) appear, it is often too late for treatment to be effective.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 90% of HBV-related deaths are associated with chronic HBV infection (70% from hepatocellular carcinoma with or without cirrhosis and 20% from cirrhosis), while less than 10% are associated with acute infection.


Common Misconceptions


I can get hepatitis B from sharing food with or hugging or kissing someone who has hepatitis B.

My doctor said that I was a healthy carrier so I have nothing to worry about.

There is a cure for hepatitis B.


Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted through food, water, or casual contact. Read More...

The term “carriers” offers a false sense of security.  Anyone who is a “carrier” of hepatitis B is at risk for premature death, liver cancer, and liver failure. Read More...

There is no cure for hepatitis B, but there is treatment. Please go to the “treatment” section to read more.











What can I do?

  • Be tested
  • Be vaccinated
  • Be screened for liver cancer