Hepatitis B

What is it? Hepatitis B is an infectious illness caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It is recognised initially by the symptoms. These can include fever, nausea, loss of appetite, rash, jaundice, dark coloured urine and abdominal pain. These symptoms can last for a number of months.

How is it caused?

Possible routes of the infection are: -

using contaminated needles to inject drugs

having unprotected sexual intercourse

tattooing, acupuncture, electrolysis and body piercing equipment if not sterilised properly before use

open wounds contaminated by blood or body fluids

the body's mucous membranes (e.g. mouth and eyes) coming into contact with blood or body fluids

using toothbrushes or razors that have been contaminated by an infected person

a new born baby can be infected by a mother carrying the virus

How is it spread?

It is spread when a person comes into contact directly or indirectly with an infected person.

What precautionary measures can I take?

Never share needles or syringes

Use a condom when having sex

Don't share razors or toothbrushes

If you are having any tattoos, acupuncture, electrolysis or your body pierced, always go to registered practitioners and ask to see their certificate of registration from the Council

Close contacts and people in occupations where they may come into contact with infected persons should seek medical advice as vaccination may be appropriate

Blood or body fluid spillages should be cleaned up using protective gloves and disinfectant

Follow safety advice if you work in contact with blood or blood products

What happens if I get it?

If you have been diagnosed as having Hepatitis B or are a carrier, it is very important you look after your own health and take steps to prevent it being passed on. For example:

follow the precautionary measures listed above

if you are going to the doctor, dentist or acupuncturist, tell them you have Hepatitis B so that safety measures can be taken

don't give blood

don't undergo chiropody, be tattooed, have your body pierced or use electrolysis until you have been cleared

take care to clean up blood spillages if you cut yourself

cover any cuts or abrasions immediately

Your doctor will want to repeat blood tests and check on your health.