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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the liver. It sometimes causes permanent liver damage.

There are several types of hepatitis. In hepatitis B, the liver is infected with the hepatitis B virus. This causes inflammation. The liver isn’t able to work the way it should.

The liver is a large organ that lies up under the ribs on the right side of your belly (abdomen). It helps filter waste from your body, makes a fluid called bile to help digest food, and stores sugar that your body uses for energy.

In the U.S., hepatitis B is one of the most common diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine.

Hepatitis B can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). It tends to become chronic most often in infants and young children, and less often in people infected as adults.

  • Acute hepatitis B. This is a brief infection (6 months or less) that goes away because the body gets rid of the virus.
  • Chronic hepatitis B. This is a long-lasting infection that happens when your body can’t get rid of the virus. It causes long-term liver damage.

What causes Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus. People pass the hepatitis B virus to each other. This happens when you come into contact with another person’s infected:  

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Saliva
  • Common ways this virus is spread are through:
  • Needle sticks
  • Sharp instruments
  • Shared razors and toothbrushes
  • Unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Sharing drug supplies

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