The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App 
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

Living With Chronic Hepatitis B

July 2006

Chronic hepatitis B is a life-long liver disease that can be spread to others.

What Should You Know to Keep Others From Getting Infected With HBV?

  • Your sex partner should get hepatitis B vaccine. If not, you should use latex condoms* correctly every time you have sex.
  • All people who live with you should get hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Do not share anything that might have blood on it, such as a toothbrush or razor.
  • Do not donate your blood, body organs, other tissues, or sperm.
  • Cover your cuts and open sores.
  • If you shoot drugs, stop using or get into a treatment program. Do not share drugs, needles, syringes, cookers, cotton, water, or rinse cups.
  • Clean blood spills with a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.

* The efficacy of latex condoms in preventing infection with HBV is unknown, but their proper use may reduce transmission.

You cannot spread HBV by:

  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Kissing or hugging
  • Breastfeeding
  • Food or water
  • Sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses
  • Casual contact (such as an office setting)

You should not be excluded from work, school, or other daily activities because you have hepatitis B.


What Is Chronic (Life-Long) Hepatitis B?

Chronic hepatitis B is a life-long liver disease caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Some people who get infected never get rid of the virus. They stay infected for life, and can spread HBV to others. If you have had other types of hepatitis, such as hepatitis A or hepatitis C, you can still get hepatitis B.

How Serious Is Hepatitis B?

1.25 million people living in the United States have chronic hepatitis B. Not all people who are infected with HBV look or feel sick; they can have the virus and not have symptoms or know they are sick.

If you have chronic hepatitis B you are more likely to get cirrhosis (scarring) and liver cancer. Each year, about 5,000 people die of cirrhosis or liver disease caused by HBV.

How Could You Have Been Infected With HBV?

HBV is spread by exposure to blood or body fluids from an infected person. You may have been infected if:

  • Your mother was infected with hepatitis B when you were born.
  • You had sex with an infected person.
  • You lived with an infected person.
  • You shot street drugs.
  • You are a health care worker and were exposed to blood at work.

How Can I Take Care of My Liver?

  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Check with your doctor before taking any new medicines, including over-the-counter and herbal medicines.
  • If you have liver damage from hepatitis B, you should get tested for hepatitis C and get vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Is There Treatment for Hepatitis B?

  • There are medicines that might lower your chance of getting severe liver disease.
  • Get checked by your doctor for liver disease to find out if medicines might help you.

What if I Am Pregnant?

Your baby can get infected with HBV during birth, but this can be prevented.

  • Make sure that your baby gets a shot called hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth.
  • Ask your doctor when your baby should get the next doses of hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Your baby should get a blood test after the vaccine series is completed to be sure he or she is protected.

It is okay for you to breastfeed your baby.

For Information on Viral Hepatitis

Access our website at:
or write
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Division of Viral Hepatitis
Mailstop G37
Atlanta, GA 30333
or contact your state or local health department

Persons depicted in these materials are models and used for illustrative purposes only.

  • Email Email
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
Talk to a Physician About HIV/Hepatitis Coinfection in Our "Ask the Experts" Forums
More on Hepatitis B