Hepatitis Home > Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is one of several types of hepatitis (liver inflammation) caused by a virus. Among the ways in which the virus can be spread are contact with infected blood and sex with an infected person. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during childbirth. Many acute cases of this virus get better on their own, but chronic cases often require treatment with medications.

What Is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver caused by a virus (specifically, the hepatitis B virus). Most people who get it can get rid of the virus on their own, but others can develop chronic (or life-long) hepatitis B.
Besides hepatitis B, there are several other types of viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, C, D, E, and G.

What Causes It?

The cause of hepatitis B is an infection with the hepatitis B virus. This is a DNA virus that belongs to the genus Orthohepadnavirus of the Hepadnaviridae family.
(Click Hepatitis B Causes for more information.)

Acute Versus Chronic Hepatitis B

There are two types of hepatitis B -- acute (recently acquired) and chronic (life-long). For most people with acute hepatitis B, symptoms gradually get better within a couple of months. These people with have no long-lasting liver damage and will recover completely.
For some people, the body is not able to completely get rid of the virus. These people end up having a long-term liver infection. This is called chronic hepatitis B. People with the chronic type can infect others and are at an increased risk of serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. In the United States, an estimated 1.25 million people are chronically infected with HBV.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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