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What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a virus that can permanently damage your liver and is a leading cause of liver cancer. There is no cure for hepatitis B, and it can sometimes lead to death. Most people get better, but about 1 out of 10 will carry the virus for life and spread it to others.

What are the signs and symptoms:

At first, most people have no symptoms, but those who do can have:

  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Stomach pains
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)

Many years later, people can experience:

  • Chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis or cancer

How is it spread?

Hepatitis B is spread:

  • By sharing used needles or syringes.
  • By sharing other drug-using equipment such as cookers, cotton, crack cocaine and water pipes.
  • By sharing straw, bills or other utensils used for snorting cocaine or other drugs.
  • Through needle-stick injuries.
  • From tattooing, piercing or acupuncture with equipment that may have been improperly sterilized.
  • From unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
  • If a pregnant woman has Hepatitis B she can infect her unborn baby.
  • By sharing razors, toothbrushes, tweezers, manicure or pedicure equipment such as nail clippers.

You cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging or from using the same dishes as an infected person. It’s not passed on when someone with hepatitis B coughs or sneezes.

Here are some ways to prevent hepatitis B:

  • Get the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Do not share needles or other drug equipment.
  • Do not share personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers.
  • Wear protective gloves if you’re likely to be in contact with someone’s blood or body fluids.
  • Use condoms every time you have sex.
  • If you’re getting a tattoo or piercing, making sure the place has been inspected and they’re using single-use sterile needles and ink.

Where can I get tested?