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You can prevent the infectious liver disease hepatitis B by getting vaccinated and by following certain lifestyle practices. The infection spreads through the body fluids (such as blood and semen) of an affected individual. Some people contract a short-term type of hepatitis B that the body clears on its own. Others develop a chronic hepatitis B infection, which can cause liver disease and cancer.
How Hepatitis B Spreads
Hepatitis B spreads primarily via:
- Mother to infant.
- Sexual contact.
- Exposure to infected blood or semen through sexual contact or sharing syringes.
The virus does not spread through hand-holding, sharing food and drinks, hugging, kissing, coughing, or breastfeeding. It’s also unlikely you’ll get hepatitis B from a blood transfusion, as all donated blood gets screened against this disease and others.
The hepatitis vaccine involves a series of shots and can help prevent you from getting the virus if you’re ever exposed to it. Health care providers recommend the vaccine for:
- All babies.
- All unvaccinated children under the age of 19.
- At-risk adults.
At-risk adults are those likely to be exposed to the hepatitis B virus. You should get vaccinated as an adult if you:
- Have had sex with someone who has hepatitis B.
- Live with someone who has hepatitis B.
- Use injectable drugs.
- Travel to countries where hepatitis B is common, such as Africa and the Western Pacific.
- Have chronic liver disease, hepatitis C, or HIV.
- Are a hemodialysis patient.
- Are a health care or public safety worker.
If you know you’ve been in contact with the virus, call your medical provider right away, as vaccination within 24 hours might help prevent you from getting the disease.
You can also prevent hepatitis B by taking steps to avoid coming in contact with infected body fluids. These include:
- Practicing safer sex, such as condom use.
- Not sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors.
- Not sharing needles.
- Cleaning blood spills thoroughly using bleach and gloves.