Hepatitis B: Testing & Vaccination
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that travels in the bloodstream and attacks the liver.
- 4 out of 5 people who catch it, fight it off themselves and left with log-lasting protection against future infection.
- 1 out of 5 people who catch it cannot defend themselves and the virus persists and slowly damages the liver.
Over time the liver stops functioning properly, scar tissue forms in the liver leading to irreversible damage called cirrhosis. In a small number of people a liver cancer can develop.
How do you catch Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is transmitted thorough contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood semen, vaginal fluids and saliva.
It is much more infectious than HIV and is easily picked up by sexual contact with someone who is infectious. Kissing and oral sex also lead to picking up the infection. Condoms will offer some protection, but can’t guarantee total protection.
Those at highest risk of giving you Hepatitis B are those at highest risk of catching it themselves. These include:
- Those born or have lived in areas of the world where it is common e.g. South Asia, the Middle and Far East, Southern Europe and Africa.
- Men who have sex with men
- People who have injected drugs
- People who buy or sell sex.
How to test for Hepatitis B?
A blood sample will be tested to check your Hepatitis B status:
- You have never had the infection and would benefit from a vaccination.
- You have a natural immunity to the infection and do not need vaccination.
- You already have Hepatitis B infection and need further investigation.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
By having a course of Hepatitis B vaccinations, you can protect yourself from contracting the virus.
It involves 3 injections which can be completed over a few weeks or a few months.
The vaccine is very safe. Some people report a little pain and redness at the injection site which wears off in a day or two. Rarely people have reported ‘Flu-like symptoms’ in the first few days. More serious side effects are extremely rare.