What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Viruses can cause hepatitis. There are five types of the hepatitis virus: A, B, C, D, and E.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable liver infection. If you have received the vaccine, you have minimal risk of getting hepatitis B. There are two types of Hepatitis B, acute and chronic. Acute hepatitis B occurs within 6 months after exposure to the virus and has mild or no symptoms. If the virus remains in the blood more than 6 months, this is chronic hepatitis B.

Why is hepatitis B important?

Acute hepatitis B can lead to chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B is a lifelong infection that results in liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Cirrhosis causes severe scarring of the liver. As the liver scars, it is harder for the liver to do it job. Children who are younger than 6 years old and get infected are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B. As a child grows older, that chance decreases.

How does hepatitis B spread?

  • Mother to child during delivery – most common
  • Contact with infected blood
  • Sex
  • Unsafe injections
  • Needlestick injury
  • Tattooing and piercing – if the artist uses unsterile needles

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

People that have acute hepatitis B may have symptoms of:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Dark urine
  • Extreme fatigue or tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Symptoms for acute hepatitis begin to appear 3 months after exposure to the virus. People that have chronichepatitis B may not have any symptoms and can remain symptom free for decades.

What are the treatment options?

There is no specific treatment or cure for acute hepatitis B. For acute hepatitis B symptoms, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol®). If you have chronic hepatitis B, your provider may prescribe oral antiviral medications. The antiviral medications can help slow the progression of cirrhosis, help reduce incidence of liver cancer, and improve your life long-term. Patients who start antiviral medication like entecavir, tenofovir, lamivudine, or adefovir must continue this medication for life. The price may be expensive, but insurances typically pay for the medicine.

How can you prevent hepatitis B?

Babies will receive a vaccine within 24 hours after birth, followed by two more doses. If a mother has hepatitis B and is giving birth to a baby, that baby should receive a combination of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and hepatitis B vaccine to protect the baby.

Who should get screened and tested?

  • All adults greater than 18 years old
  • All pregnant women
  • Infant born to pregnant person with hepatitis B
  • People in certain countries where hepatitis B is common
  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who inject drugs
  • People with HIV

Written by:
Bleona Daku
PharmD Candidate 2024
Temple University School of Pharmacy


“Hepatitis B – FAQs, Statistics, Data, & Guidelines.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 Mar. 2023, www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/index.htm.

“Hepatitis B.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-b. Accessed 7 June 2023.

“What Is Hepatitis B – FAQ.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 Mar. 2023, www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/bfaq.htm#:~:text=Hepatitis%20B%20is%20a%20liver,known%20as%20chronic%20hepatitis%20B.

“Hepatitis B.” Mayo Clinic, 24 Sept. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/symptoms-causes/syc-20366802.