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Basic Questions and Answers About Hepatitis B

October 23, 2015

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Treatment

How Is Acute Hepatitis B Treated?

There is no medication available to treat acute Hepatitis B. During this short-term infection, doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids, although some people may need to be hospitalized.


How Is Chronic Hepatitis B Treated?

It depends. People with chronic Hepatitis B virus infection should seek the care or consultation of a doctor with experience treating Hepatitis B. This can include some internists or family medicine practitioners, as well as specialists such as infectious disease physicians, gastroenterologists, or hepatologists (liver specialists). People with chronic Hepatitis B should be monitored regularly for signs of liver disease and evaluated for possible treatment. Several medications have been approved for Hepatitis B treatment, and new drugs are in development. However, not every person with chronic Hepatitis B needs to be on medication, and the drugs may cause side effects in some patients.


What Can People With Chronic Hepatitis B Do to Take Care of Their Liver?

People with chronic Hepatitis B should be monitored regularly by a doctor experienced in caring for people with Hepatitis B. They should avoid alcohol because it can cause additional liver damage. They also should check with a health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, as these can potentially damage the liver.


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Prevention/Vaccination

Can Hepatitis B Be Prevented?

Yes. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine. The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective and is usually given as 3-4 shots over a 6-month period.


What Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Series?

The Hepatitis B vaccine series is a sequence of shots that stimulate a person's natural immune system to protect against HBV. After the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies that protect a person against the virus. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that is produced in response to a virus invading the body. These antibodies are then stored in the body and will fight off the infection if a person is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus in the future.


Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for:

  • All infants, starting with the first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine at birth
  • All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated
  • People whose sex partners have Hepatitis B
  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship.
  • Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men
  • People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
  • People who have close household contact with someone infected with the Hepatitis B virus
  • Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
  • People with end-stage renal disease, including predialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
  • Travelers to regions with moderate or high rates of Hepatitis B
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with HIV infection
  • Anyone who wishes to be protected from Hepatitis B virus infection

In order to reach individuals at risk for Hepatitis B, vaccination is also recommended for anyone in or seeking treatment from the following:

  • Sexually transmitted disease treatment facilities
  • HIV testing and treatment facilities
  • Facilities providing drug-abuse treatment and prevention services
  • Health care settings targeting services to injection drug users
  • Health care settings targeting services to men who have sex with men
  • Chronic hemodialysis facilities and end-stage renal disease programs
  • Correctional facilities
  • Institutions and nonresidential day care facilities for developmentally disabled persons


When Should a Person Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine Series?

Children and Adolescents

  • All children should get their first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine at birth and complete the vaccine series by 6-18 months of age.
  • All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the vaccine should also be vaccinated. "Catch-up" vaccination is recommended for children and adolescents who were never vaccinated or who did not get the entire vaccine series.

Adults:

  • Any adult who is at risk for Hepatitis B virus infection or who wants to be vaccinated should talk to a health professional about getting the vaccine series.

For more information about Hepatitis B and other vaccines, see www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html.


Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Recommended Before International Travel?

The risk for Hepatitis B virus infection in international travelers is generally low, although people traveling to certain countries are at risk. Travelers to regions with moderate or high rates of Hepatitis B should get the Hepatitis B vaccine.


How Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Series Given?

The Hepatitis B vaccine is usually given as a series of 3 or 4 shots over a 6-month period.


Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Series Effective?

Yes, the Hepatitis B vaccine is very effective at preventing Hepatitis B virus infection. After receiving all three doses, Hepatitis B vaccine provides greater than 90% protection to infants, children, and adults immunized before being exposed to the virus.


Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Safe?

Yes, the Hepatitis B vaccine is safe. Soreness at the injection site is the most common side effect reported. As with any medicine, there are very small risks that a serious problem could occur after getting the vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with Hepatitis B are much greater than the risks the vaccine poses. Since the vaccine became available in 1982, more than 100 million people have received Hepatitis B vaccine in the United States and no serious side effects have been reported.


Is It Harmful to Have an Extra Dose of Hepatitis B Vaccine or to Repeat the Entire Hepatitis B Vaccine Series?

No, getting extra doses of Hepatitis B vaccine is not harmful.


What Should Be Done if Hepatitis B Vaccine Series Was Not Completed?

Talk to your health professional to resume the vaccine series as soon as possible. The series does not need to be restarted.


Who Should Not Receive the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

The Hepatitis B vaccine is not recommended for people who have had serious allergic reactions to a prior dose of Hepatitis B vaccine or to any part of the vaccine. Also, it not recommended for anyone who is allergic to yeast because yeast is used when making the vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.


Are Booster Doses of Hepatitis B Vaccine Necessary?

It depends. A "booster" dose of Hepatitis B vaccine is a dose that increases or extends the effectiveness of the vaccine. Booster doses are recommended only for hemodialysis patients and can be considered for other people with a weakened immune system. Booster doses are not recommended for persons with normal immune status who have been fully vaccinated.


Is There a Vaccine That Will Protect Me From Both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B?

Yes, there is a combination vaccine that protects people from both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. The combined Hepatitis A and B vaccine is usually given as three separate doses over a 6-month period.


Can I Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine at the Same Time as Other Vaccines?

Yes. Getting two different vaccines at the same time has not been shown to be harmful.


Where Can I Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Talk to your doctor or health professional or call your health department. Some clinics offer free or low-cost vaccines.


What Is Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG)?

Hepatitis B immune globulin is a substance made from human blood samples that contains antibodies against the Hepatitis B virus. It is given as a shot and can provide short-term protection (approximately 3 months) against Hepatitis B.

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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
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