How Is Hepatitis B Spread?
The hepatitis B virus, HBV for short, is one of the most commonly spread infections within the UK, but it can also be one of the hardest infections to spot. As it is typically symptomless, it can be hard to know exactly whether or not you have contracted HBV. But how is hepatitis B spread, and what can you do to lower your risk of contracting HBV?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about hepatitis B and why you should consider getting the HBV vaccine.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection that affects the liver. It is most commonly caused by a virus that is passed through the body either through blood or other bodily fluids. It is commonly a symptomless infection, but this doesn't mean it doesn't cause damage to your body if left untreated.
Due to its lack of symptoms, the hepatitis B virus can be hard to spot and even harder to diagnose without accurate testing. The most common time for symptoms to arise is anywhere between 2 to 3 months from contracting the virus.
Hepatitis B, if left untreated, is one of the leading causes of liver cancer in the world. Thankfully, there is a hepatitis B vaccine that you can take which will prevent you from contracting hepatitis B. This can help lower the chances of you developing liver cancer due to complications associated with HBV.
Testing for hepatitis B is fairly quick and is highly recommended if you have recently started to have sex with a new partner. It is also advised to consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine if you fall into any of the following risk groups:
- If you have sex with multiple people
- If you are a man who has sex with men
- If you actively have sex with someone who has contracted the HBV
- If you frequently use needles, whether for recreational or medical purposes
- If you live with someone who has HBV
Staying on top of your sexual health is incredibly important, especially if you want to lower the chances of serious complications such as liver failure or liver disease. By getting tested frequently, either at a clinic or via a home test kit, and ensuring you take steps to prevent infection, you can avoid HBV entirely!
The ways hepatitis B is most commonly spread
As hepatitis B is fairly contagious, there is a range of different ways it can be spread. A common way hepatitis B is spread in the UK is through unprotected sex with new partners. Although hepatitis B is usually found in infected blood, it can also pass through other bodily fluids such as semen.
Another common way in which HBV is spread is through the use of shared needles. This is more common in the U.S. than it is in the UK, but sharing needles should be avoided at all costs due to the range of infections that can be spread through shared needles.
One of the biggest dangers of hepatitis B is that if an infected person is pregnant whilst they have hepatitis B, it can be passed onto the child. This can be incredibly dangerous and cause a slew of complications for the child.
Hepatitis B is almost symptomless, making it one of the most contagious STIs in the world. If you regularly have sex with new partners, consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine. You should also get tested for Hepatitis regularly to avoid unknowingly passing it on to sexual partners.
The reason Hepatitis B is so contagious
One of the reasons why hepatitis B is so contagious is due to its lack of symptoms. As it can be hard to know whether or not you truly suffer from a hepatitis B infection, you may take risks you wouldn't if you were aware you had contracted the virus.
On top of this, hepatitis B is also naturally extremely contagious. It can be contracted through blood and other bodily fluids and is most commonly spread during unprotected sex.
However, although saliva can carry the virus, it cannot be contracted through kissing or sharing spoons, forks and other utensils. Although if you live with an infected person, you should try to take precautions where possible.
Taking the right precautions if you plan on having unprotected sex in the future is also incredibly important to avoid contracting a hepatitis B infection. This includes wearing condoms where possible and ensuring oral sex is enjoyed safely.
How to reduce the risk of catching hepatitis B
Perhaps the most effective way for sexually active people to avoid catching hepatitis B is to wear protection when with new partners. As it can be passed through bodily fluids, including semen, a condom offers incredible protection against acute hepatitis B.
Thankfully, there is also a vaccine for hepatitis B that can massively lower the risk of you contracting the virus due to unprotected sex. The vaccine can help prevent you from catching a chronic hepatitis B infection and is recommended for most sexually active young people.
General hygiene can also work wonders in preventing you from catching hepatitis B or from spreading it if you do contract it. Washing your hands, especially after potential exposure to infected blood, will minimise the risk of you developing chronic hepatitis B.
If you are worried that you may have recently been exposed to hepatitis B and you don't have the vaccine, consider getting tested. A test is fairly quick and can be performed at most general practitioners or sexual health clinics.
Frequent testing applies to almost all STIs, including hepatitis. As a large percentage of STIs are symptomless, it can be hard to truly know whether or not you have contracted one. Tests are the best way you can care for your, and any sexual partners, sexual health.
What to do if you have symptoms of hepatitis B virus infection
The first step if you have hepatitis B infection symptoms is to get a test at your local GP or sexual health clinic. Although there is no cure for hepatitis B, a preventive treatment can lower your risks of contracting HBV - Or prevent an acute hepatitis B infection from developing into a chronic HBV infection.
When it comes to hepatitis B, the sooner you seek preventive treatment, the more effective it will be. By seeking aid from a GP or sexual health clinic, you can help massively decrease the chances of catching hepatitis B.
If you have acquired a positive HBV test, you will want to lower the chances of spreading the infections as much as you can. Be sure to regularly wash your hands and alerts any sexual partners to your infection.
Most cases of hepatitis B will be symptomless and will rarely cause any serious complications. However, this isn't the case with 100% of infections, especially if you develop a chronic hepatitis B infection.
Potential complications from a hepatitis B infection
As hepatitis B is a liver infection, it can increase your chances of developing liver cancer. Hepatitis B can also lead to other serious complications such as scarring of the liver or even liver failure if left untreated.
Cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, can be caused by inflammation associated with a chronic hepatitis B infection. This may cause a myriad of issues with your liver and is one of the reasons why the hepatitis B vaccine is so frequently recommended.
There are few symptoms of hepatitis B that will stand out, making it one of the hardest STI's to truly know whether or not you have. It also doesn't help that hepatitis B treatment is currently limited; it is almost impossible to get rid of it once contracted.
When it comes to hepatitis B, the best treatment is prevention. Regular testing and ensuring you get the vaccine when possible can prevent serious issues such as liver failure or liver cancer.
Is the hepatitis B virus curable?
Once you have contracted hepatitis B, you cannot be cured of the infection. However, most symptoms and complications can pass over time, so you will essentially recover fully in a few months to a year - depending on the severity of your infection.
Without treatment, hepatitis B can become a chronic infection that can cause some serious complications further down the road. Ensuring you protect yourself from hepatitis B is incredibly important.
Who is most at risk of getting HBV?
There are a few different people who are more at risk of catching hepatitis B than others. People who have multiple sexual partners or frequently have sex with someone who has chronic hepatitis B are perhaps the most at risk.
Men who have sex with other men and anyone who shares needles also have a higher risk of contracting a serious hepatitis B infection. If you fall into any of these risk factors, considering getting the hepatitis B vaccine.
I have hepatitis B virus, how can I minimise the risk of passing it to others?
If you are aware that you have chronic or acute hepatitis B, be sure to alert any sexual partners as soon as possible. You should also ensure that during sex, you wear a condom to minimise the risk of passing your infected body fluids to your sexual partner.
Frequently washing your hands and general hygiene can truly lower the risk of you passing your hepatitis B infection on to other people. As long as you take steps to minimise passing on your infection, the chances of HPV spreading can be massively reduced.
Can I still get chronic HBV if I have had the vaccine?
Once you have had the hepatitis B vaccine, the chances of you developing a chronic infection are almost zero. You also cannot contract hepatitis B from the vaccine as it is made synthetically, meaning it cannot spread the HPV.
What does a hepatitis B test consist of?
The hepatitis B test is a blood test used to detect antigens found within an infected liver. As antigens are used to quell an infection, they are easier to find through blood tests if you are currently suffering from a hepatitis B infection.
If you have ever had a blood test before, the HPV test is no different. The test itself shouldn't last much longer than 5 minutes, and no preparation is needed. This is perfect if you lead a busy lifestyle but are worried you may have contracted a Hepatitis virus.