Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B, also known as Hep B, is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a virus that infects the liver. The virus is found in the blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk of a person infected with Hepatitis B.

The virus can be passed from person to person in these ways:

  • Vaginal, anal or oral sex without using a condom and/or oral dam
  • Sharing needles and other injecting equipment
  • Sharing personal hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and razors
  • Tattooing and body piercing equipment that has not been properly sterilized
  • A Hepatitis B infected mother passing the virus to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth, or when breastfeeding.

Symptoms: Some people infected with Hepatitis B may show no symptoms. Others may experience jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye), fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal and/or joint pain.

Testing: A Hepatitis B infection can be determined by a blood test.  See your health-care provider to discuss your risk and to get tested.

Treatment: There is no cure for Hepatitis B, but treatments are available. See your health-care practitioner to discuss treatment options.

Prevention: To prevent Hepatitis B, a vaccination is given in two to three injections over a six-month period. You may discuss this vaccination with your healthcare provider.

To reduce your risk of getting STIs, including HIV,  follow these practices:

  • Use a condom and/or oral dam properly and consistently each time you are sexually active.
  • See your health-care provider or go to a sexual health clinic to be tested for STIs if you are sexually active or starting a sexual relationship with a new partner.
  • You and your partner should be tested for STIs before becoming sexually active and then again in three to six months.

You can’t tell if someone has an STI by looking at them; the only way to know is to be tested.

For more information about Hepatitis B and other STIs, see the Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights website.

Services related to this information:

811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555

Public Health Nursing office

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Last updated: 2019-08-22