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Types of Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Most people who get hepatitis B can get rid of the virus on their own; however, unlike hepatitis A, which eventually goes away, some people with hepatitis B develop a lifelong infection known as chronic hepatitis B. This may lead to a scarring of the liver (called cirrhosis), liver failure, and can also lead to liver cancer.
The hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. Among the bodily fluids that can transmit the virus are infected blood and blood products. It is also spread through contact with other infected bodily fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluids, or saliva.
Casual contact, as in the usual office, factory, or school setting, does not spread the virus. A person cannot get hepatitis B from a kiss or other normal everyday activities, such as hugging or shaking hands.
(Click Hepatitis B Transmission for more information on how the virus is spread.)
Symptoms can vary, although a number of people will not have any symptoms until significant liver damage has occurred (see Hepatitis B Symptoms).
Treatment for acute hepatitis B is focused on dealing with any symptoms or complications that may occur as a result of the infection. This is known as supportive care. Even without specialized treatment for acute hepatitis B, most people recover completely within a few months. For people with chronic hepatitis B, specific medicines are available to help slow down liver damage and possibly prevent associated complications (see Hepatitis B Treatment).
A hepatitis B vaccine is available to help prevent this disease (see Hepatitis B Prevention).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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