Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is mainly passed on by blood-to-blood contact or passed on through sexual contact.

Most people will have acute hepatitis B where symptoms may last up to 6 months and the body is able to eliminate the virus and recover. If the infection lasts for more than 6 months, it is called chronic hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis can lead to over problems such as liver damage, liver failure and liver cancer.

Exposure to Hepatitis B may include:

  • sharing needles and other injecting drug equipment
  • sharing razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers
  • sexual contact (either heterosexual or homosexual)
  • tattooing with unsterilised needles and equipment
  • close family contact with someone who has hepatitis B
  • being born to a mother with hepatitis B (although this is uncommon in Australia as pregnant women are screened for hepatitis B and treated if necessary, and also babies are vaccinated soon after birth)
  • accidental exposure such as a needle stick injury or being splashed with infected blood or body fluid
  • blood transfusion — this is now very rare as blood in Australia is screened for hepatitis B

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for:

  • infants
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people who are immunocompromised
  • people with medical risk factors
  • people whose occupation increases their risk of acquiring hepatitis B including healthcare workers, police, correctional facility officers, tattooists and body piercers
  • travellers to hepatitis B–endemic areas
  • people whose circumstances increase their risk of acquiring hepatitis B.

Vaccination can prevent Hepatitis B.

Pharmacists in NSW can administer the Hepatitis B vaccine to people aged 5 years and over.

Reference: healthdirect.gov.au

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