Hepatitis B is a serious disease that affects the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can cause mild illness lasting a few weeks, or it can lead to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis B virus infection can be either acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis B virus. This can lead to:
• fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and/or vomiting
• jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements)
• pain in muscles, joints, and stomach Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body.
Most people who go on to develop chronic hepatitis B do not have symptoms, but it is still very serious and can lead to:
• liver damage (cirrhosis)
• liver cancer
Chronically-infected people can spread hepatitis B virus to others, even if they do not feel or look sick themselves. Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. People can become infected with the virus through:
• Birth (a baby whose mother is infected can be infected at or after birth)
• Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
• Contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
• Sex with an infected partner
• Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
• Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments
Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B and its consequences, including liver cancer and cirrhosis.
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