Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It ranges in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term (chronic) illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.


About ninety per cent of adults who become infected with hepatitis B completely recover from the infection after approximately six months. During this time of acute infection, people can either be symptom free or get sick with signs and symptoms such as:

  • Jaundice (i.e., skin and eyes turn yellow)
  • Pale stools
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Tenderness in the upper right side of the stomach area
  • Loss of appetite

About eight to ten per cent of adults who acquire hepatitis B remain chronically infected (i.e., they do not clear the virus on their own). Individuals who are chronically infected can remain symptom free for years. However, the ongoing liver inflammation associated with chronic hepatitis B can put one at increased risk for complications such as cirrhosis (i.e. severe liver scarring) and/or liver cancer.

Whether you have signs of illness or not, if you have the virus in your body you can pass it on to others.


Hepatitis B is spread by direct contact with infectious blood, semen and body fluids. A person can become infected with the hepatitis B virus from the following:

  • Sex with an infected person
  • Sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs
  • An infected mother to her newborn during birth
  • The hepatitis B infection can be prevented in almost all newborns by giving the baby Hepatitis B Immune Globulin and hepatitis B vaccine at birth


Hepatitis B is NOT spread by:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Hugging
  • Using the same dishes or cutlery as an infected person


For more information on hepatitis B, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b