Hepatitis B

  • Prevention

    All children should receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and complete the series of three shots by age 6 months. Children younger than age 19 who have not been vaccinated should receive "catch-up" doses.

    People who are at high risk, including health care workers and those who live with someone who has hepatitis B should get the hepatitis B vaccine.

    Infants born to mothers who either currently have acute hepatitis B, or who have had the infection should receive a special vaccination that includes hepatitis B immune globulin and a hepatitis B immunization within 12 hours of birth.

    Screening of all donated blood has reduced the chance of getting hepatitis B from a blood transfusion. Mandatory reporting of the disease allows state health care workers to track people who have been exposed to the virus. The vaccine is given to those who have not yet developed the disease.

    The hepatitis B vaccine or a hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) shot may help prevent hepatitis B infection if it is given within 24 hours of exposure.

    Lifestyle measures for preventing transmission of hepatitis B:

    • Avoid sexual contact with a person who has acute or chronic hepatitis B.
    • Use a condom and practice safe sex.
    • Avoid sharing personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes.
    • Do not share drug needles or other drug equipment (such as straws for snorting drugs).
    • Clean blood spills with a solution containing 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water.

    Hepatitis B (and hepatitis C) viruses cannot be spread by casual contact, such as holding hands, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, breast-feeding, kissing, hugging, coughing, or sneezing.


    Dienstag JL. Hepatitis B virus infection. N Engl J Med. 2008;359:1486-1500.

    Perrillo R. Hepatitis B and D. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:chap 78.

    Sorrell MF, Belongia EA, Costa J, Gareen IF, Grem JL, Inadomi JM, et al. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement: Management of hepatitis B. Ann Intern Med. 2009;150:104-10.