Patient Information Leaflet

Hepatitis B

How do you acquire Hepatitis B? (Causes of Hepatitis B )

Hepatitis B is a virus passed from person to person by

  • Blood to blood contact, i.e. needles or other medical equipment which is contaminated with infected blood, infected blood being spilt onto a wound & most imp Blood transfusion.
  • Having sex with an infected person .
  • 10 – 70 % women who are hepatitis B positive transmit the virus to their children .
Pregnant mother to child
Mother : Virus Status
HBsAg HBeAg Risk of transmission to neonate
+ + 90 %
+ - 20%
  • A human bite from an infected person.
  • Household contacts: sharing toothbrushes or razors.
  • Tattooing, ear piercing.
  • Hemodialysis machine.

What are the symptoms ?

Hepatitis B is a silent infection. Sometimes, in acute stage person may have the following symptoms:

  • A short mild flu-like illness
  • Feeling ill and tired
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) and
  • Pale stools and dark urine.

Why have a test?

  • If you are a carrier you can take steps to avoid passing it on to other people.
  • If you are pregnant and a carrier of Hepatitis B, your baby can be protected by a vaccination soon after birth.
  • If hepatitis B is left untreated, it can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer.

How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

  • Blood Test that includes :
    • LFT ( Liver function test)
    • Hepatitis B Surface antigen (HBsAg)
    • Anti – core IgM (IgManti - HBc)
    • Hepatitis B Surface Antibody (HBsAb or anti – HBs )
    • Hepatitis B Envelope Antigen (HBeAg)
    • Hepatitis B Envelope Antibody (Anti-HBe or HBeAb):
    • HBV DNA ( qualitative + quantitative )
  • Ultrasound of the liver.
  • Liver Biopsy : it is removal of small piece of tissue from the liver using a special needle. The tissue is examined under a microscope to look for inflammation or liver damage.
  • Fibroscan which can be done instead of liver biopsy to assess the degree of damage to liver.

Is there a vaccine?

  • Yes, vaccination is the best protection against catching Hepatitis B.
  • Anyone who is thought to be at high risk from catching Hepatitis B can have the vaccination.
  • This might include husbands, wives, sexual partners and new born babies of people who are infected with or carry the Hepatitis B virus.
  • The Hepatitis B vaccination consists of three injections and you must have all three doses for long lasting protection against the virus .(0, 1, 6 months).

Treatment to prevent Hepatitis B infection after exposure?

  • If you know you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, call your doctor immediately.
  • Receiving an injection of Hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hrs of coming in contact with the virus may help protect you from developing hepatitis B.

Treatment for Acute Hepatitis B infection ?

If you have an acute infection , meaning it is short lived & can go away on its own & you may not need any treatment.

Treatment for Chronic Hepatitis B infection ?

a) Interferon :

  • Are proteins produced naturally by our bodies.
  • Inteferon needs to be injected subcutaneously (literally , under the skin)
  • The injection need to be given daily upto a year.
  • The injection are given either in combination with a nucleoside or nucleotide analogue, or as monotherapy.

b) Nucleoside & nucleotide analogues :

  • These medicines are taken orally and act by lowering the virus load in the body.
  • Duration of the treatment is not finite , Patients has to take the medicines for 6 months to lifelong.
  • If the patient doesn't respond to the therapy initially then there are chances that the virus has developed resistance.

Prevention: Safety tips for those who are positive

  • Do not share needles used to inject drugs , hormones, steroids & vitamins
  • Do not share towels, razor, nail clippers or toothbrushes
  • Inform your doctor regarding this infection
  • Do not donate blood or organs
  • Cover any open wounds or cuts
  • Use of barriers and condoms will help reduce risk of sexual transmission
  • During pregnancy it is important to test for hepatitis B and C infection due to risk of transmission of infection from mother to baby
  • Make sure tattoo and piercing equipment package is opened up in front of you.