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Hepatitis B (Hep B)

Hepatitis B is an infectious virus that can cause serious disease of the liver. Hep B is found in blood as well as semen, vaginal fluid and saliva.

How is it passed on?

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • Sharing personal items e.g. toothbrushes, razors, sex toys
  • Sharing needles or injecting equipment
  • Non-sterile (unclean) tattooing or piercing equipment
  • Contact sports where there are cuts or grazes
  • Pregnancy/childbirth – infected mother to baby


Often none, but symptoms within 3 months may include:

  • feeling like throwing up (nausea)
  • flu-like symptoms (fever, extreme tiredness, stomach pain)
  • urine or faeces (poo) can be a strange colour
  • skin and eyeballs can look yellow (jaundice)
  • not feeling very hungry

How is it tested?

  • Blood test

There is a combined Hep A / Hep B vaccination. Talk to your GP or sexual health clinic for more information.

How is it treated?

  • If you have been exposed to Hep B, an injection from your doctor may help to prevent infection.
  • Most people will recover without treatment – just with rest, plenty of fluids and no drugs or alcohol.
  • A very small number of people will continue to have the infection and can have serious health problems.

How can I prevent getting it?

  • Get vaccinated against Hep B.
  • Use a condom during vaginal, anal or oral sex and when sharing sex toys.
  • Never share needles, injecting equipment or personal items.
  • Only have tattooing and piercing done by licenced, trained professionals.

Hepatitis B