Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B infection can lead to long-term liver disease. Left unmanaged, it can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer. More than two billion people worldwide have been infected by hepatitis B and of these over 240 million are living with long-term (also known as “chronic”) hepatitis B. Globally, there are over 780,000 deaths per year, from hepatitis B related causes - 650,000 from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer caused by hepatitis B, and 130,000 from acute hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B virus is transmitted when blood from a person with the hepatitis B virus enters the bloodstream of a person with no hepatitis B immunity. It is also transmitted via the semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person. The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least seven days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
The most effective protection against hepatitis B is vaccination.
To know if you are immune or if you have a current hepatitis B infection, or which stage your chronic hepatitis B is at, you will need to have a blood test done.
Currently, the main aim of most hepatitis B treatment is to reduce liver damage by controlling the multiplication of the virus. This helps to cut down the risk of serious disease, enabling the liver to repair itself. Not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs treatment all the time. Treatment is started when the virus enters an active phase.
The decision of when to treat and what treatment to use, is complex and needs to be made by a specialist based on individual assessments.