Hepatitis B

Also known as - Hep B and HBV



20,000 Philly residents are believed to have hepatitis B.

Most Philadelphians with hep B are not aware they have it.

Hep B can be prevented with a 3-shot vaccine series.

Persons or families who have immigrated from Asia or Africa are more likely to have hepatitis B.

To prevent death and serious health complications from hepatitis B, Philadelphians should get tested and treated.

So, what can you tell me about hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. It spreads when the blood, semen, or vaginal fluids of an infected person come into contact with a healthy person’s fluids. People with hepatitis B do not always have symptoms, so you can live with hep B for a long time and never know it. Understanding your risk and getting tested is important so you can find out if you have hepatitis B before it does serious damage to your liver.

The info below will help you figure out if you might have been exposed to hepatitis B. If any of the risk factors sound familiar, tell your medical provider that you would like to be tested. If you test positive, there are medications that can control the virus and slow down damage to the liver. If you test negative, ask your clinician about getting vaccinated for hepatitis B – three shots of the vaccine will protect you from getting infected!

hep b infections can be either acute or chronic


A mild illness that happens within the first 6 months after infection

Can develop into a chronic hepatitis b infection

If you recover from an acute hep B infection, you are immune and cannot be infected again

Babies who are exposed to the virus are likely to develop a chronic infection

90% of adults will be cured of the infection without medical help


A long term infection that remains in the body for a lifetime

Up to 1.4 million people in the U.S. might be infected with chronic hepatitis B

Most people who have chronic hepatitis B are not aware they are infected

10% of people exposed to hep B as adults will develop a chronic infection

Can result in long term health issues including cancer and death

HEPATITIS B can be prevented with a vaccine

A vaccination is available to help prevent hepatitis B, as well as cirrhosis and liver cancer that can be caused by having a hepatitis B infection. The vaccination consists of a series of 3 single shots that are taken over a period of six months. Each of the 3 shots are absolutely safe to receive. Since the vaccination is harmless and can prevent liver cancer, it is recommended that all children and adults receive the hepatitis B vaccination.

How is hepatitis B spread?

Body Fluids

The hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood, semen, and vaginal fluids of a person infected with hep B. The virus is more easily spread than HIV and can be transferred when the body fluids of an infected person enter the body of another person.

Can You Guess How
Hepatitis B Is Spread?


Without a doubt.

Anal, oral, or vaginal sex with a hepatitis B positive partner (regardless of gender).



Passed from mother to child. There are ways to prevent this, so it is important to talk to your doctor.



Through sharing injection drug equipment such as needles, cotton, spoons, and water.



By sharing toothbrushes, razors, and other items that can have traces of blood on them.



We are not sure how this rumor started. But you cannot get hep B by eating seafood.



Even though hep B can be found in saliva, there are no known instances of hep B passing through swapping spit.


Keep on feeding!

Hep B is not transmitted through breast milk, so your baby is safe to keep on drinking.



It is spread by needles and other materials that have not been properly cleaned. Tattoo parties are a huge risk.


No Way!

Just make sure there is not any blood in the lips and your should be fine. So kiss away love birds.



But please cover your mouth. We want the news, not the weather!



Through needlesticks, or exposure to blood or open wounds.



You can keep sharing, but we aren't promising you won't catch the flu, or something else.

Do I have hepatitis B?


You might have Hep B if you...

  • Have had unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • Were born to a mother who has hepatitis B
  • Have shared needles, syringes, or any other items needed to inject drugs
  • Have immigrated, or are the child of an immigrant, from a continent with a large hep B infected population such as Asia or Africa (Check out a map from CDC)
  • Have received a blood transfer or an organ transplant before 1992
  • Were tattooed or body pierced at a tattoo party, or other unlicensed venues
  • Have been exposed to blood at your place of work
  • Have shared razors or toothbrushes with someone who may have hepatitis B

symptoms are a bit tricky

Symptoms are most common during the acute phase of a hepatitis B infection and generally appear within 3 months after you have been infected. Once symptoms appear, they may last anywhere from a few weeks to about 6 months. If you have a chronic infection it is likely you will not notice any obvious symptoms unless your immune system is very weak, or if you liver is starting to fail.

Symptoms Include:

Yellowing of
the skin or eyes
Abdominal pain
Dark urine (pee)
Gray feces (poop)
Nausea or vomiting

What If I Think I Have Hepatitis B?

See A Doctor!

If you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, do not wait for symptoms to get tested! If you wait until symptoms show up to get tested, your liver may already be damaged beyond repair. Hepatitis is known as a silent killer because it can live in your body for years without you knowing it. So if you think you have been exposed to hepatitis B, tell your medical provider you would like to be tested. If you test positive, there are medications that can control the virus. If you test negative, ask your clinician about getting vaccinated for hepatitis B – three shots of the vaccine will protect you from getting infected!

Want to find care or assistance?

Want to get tested for hepatitis? Lack insurance and need assistance? Are you a doctor with a Spanish speaking client who needs translation? No matter your needs, we can help! Check out our Support + Care page to find a place in your community that can give you the healthcare support you deserve.


Where Can I Find More Hep B Info?