Hepatitis is the name given to different illnesses which cause inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B virus is one of a number of viruses which can affect your liver. Hepatitis B is common in New Zealand and infection may result in long-term health complications.
You can get hepatitis B by coming in contact with body fluids from infected people, including blood, semen, vaginal fluid, urine and saliva. This means you can get hepatitis B through vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact without a condom. Hepatitis B can also be spread by sharing equipment and needles for drug use, tattooing or body piercing.
It may be passed on from mother to baby at birth, and sometimes it can be passed through breast milk.
It may even be spread by living in the same house and sharing eating utensils, razors or toothbrushes.
Some occupations or contact sports may put you at higher risk of catching hepatitis B.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Of the people who come in contact with the hepatitis virus, three out of four will not feel sick.
Symptoms may include nausea, loss of appetite, pain in the liver (right side), fever, painful joints or jaundice (yellow eyes and skin).
How serious is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B can be a serious disease in some people, who can develop a chronic disease which can cause scarring of the liver, liver failure or liver cancer, but most people recover completely after a few months, though some people will still become carriers of the virus.
How do I get tested for Hepatitis B?
You can have the infection for up to six months before it will show up in a blood test. During this time you may or may not feel sick. Find a local clinic now.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?
Once you become infected with hepatitis B there is no treatment. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccination. If you are carrying the virus you should not donate blood, plasma, body organs, tissue, or sperm. Tell your doctor, dentist, and sex partner that you are a hepatitis B carrier.
The medical information in JUST THE FACTS is based on the STIEF and NZ Sexual Health Society Guidelines for the management of STIs. The New Zealand Ministry of Health supports the use of these clinical guidelines, developed by clinical experts and professional associations to guide clinical care in New Zealand.