Hepatitis B Virus
Spreading the Hepatitis B VirusHepatitis B is a highly contagious virus that can spread easily from person to person. In fact, the virus is 100 times more contagious than HIV. It is spread when blood, semen, or other bodily fluids from an infected person enter the body of a person who is not infected. Some examples of the ways in which the hepatitis B virus can be spread include:
- Having sex with an infected person without using a condom (the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing infection with the virus is unknown, but their proper use might reduce transmission)
- Sharing drugs, needles, or "works" when shooting (injecting) drugs
- Through needle sticks or "sharps" exposures on the job
- From an infected mother to her baby during birth.
The hepatitis B virus is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, coughing, sneezing, or casual contact.
Following infection with the hepatitis B virus, a person does not immediately become sick. Once the virus enters the body, it travels to the liver, where it begins to multiply. Hepatitis B symptoms usually appear approximately 60 to 90 days later. This period between transmission and the beginning of symptoms is called the hepatitis B incubation period. This period can be as short as 30 days or as long as 180 days.
(Click Hepatitis B Transmission for more information.)