Rite Aid is committed to keeping you well and free of diseases like Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus. In fact, “hepatitis” means “inflammation of the liver.” Hepatitis is the name of an entire family of viral infections that affect the liver, including Hepatitis A, B and C. The severity of the disease can range from a mild case lasting a few weeks (acute) to a serious, lifelong illness (chronic). Acute infection can sometimes lead to a chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis B is a serious health concern and in severe cases may lead to death. Viruses are not the only cause of hepatitis. Other causes of hepatitis include: heavy alcohol use, some diseases, certain drugs, toxins, and bacterial infections. Viral hepatitis is spread when someone who is not infected comes in contact with the blood and other bodily fluids of an infected person (e.g. sex, sharing needles, toothbrushes or razors, and tattoo or body piercing with unsterile equipment). It can also be contracted by newborns of infected mothers. You do not get infected from breastfeeding, sneezing, coughing, hugging, kissing, or holding hands.
About one third of people who are infected with Hepatitis B in the United States don't know how they got it. Short-term (acute) illness may include loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, tiredness, yellowing of the skin or eyes, and pain in muscles, joints, and stomach. Long-term illness (chronic) may include liver damage and liver cancer. In 2014, there were an estimated 19,200 new Hepatitis B virus infection cases in the United States.
Getting immunized against Hepatitis B is the best way to prevent the disease.
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B virus and is transmitted when blood, semen, or other bodily fluid infected with the virus enters the body of an uninfected person. Ways people can become infected include:
Many of those who have the chronic Hepatitis B virus may not realize they even have the disease since they neither look nor feel sick. That said, they may still develop serious health problems later on and can still spread the virus to others.
Nearly two thirds of the acute Hepatitis B cases in the U.S. are the result of sexual contact amongst adults which is the most common mode of transmission. Spread via bodily fluids like blood, semen and vaginal fluids, Hepatitis B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
Hepatitis B is not typically transmitted via water or food like Hepatitis A, but has been known to spread to young children whose food has been pre-chewed by a person with the disease. It is not transmitted by hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, breastfeeding or by sharing eating utensils.
Some people may exhibit symptoms of acute Hepatitis B, but a majority of the people with chronic Hepatitis B can remain symptom-free for 20-30 years. Serious liver damage can occur in 15-25% of the people with chronic Hepatitis B such as cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver failure and liver cancer. Some people still may not know they have liver disease caused by Hepatitis B due to lack of symptoms – only blood tests for liver function may reveal abnormalities.
Symptoms of acute Hepatitis B virus infection will typically manifest in older children and adults. About 70% of adults and children over the age of 5 with the infection will develop symptoms.
Symptoms (if they manifest themselves) of acute Hepatitis B can include:
Typically, symptoms develop an average of 90 days (range: 60 – 150 days) after exposure to the virus, but they can appear anytime between 6 weeks and 6 months after initial exposure.
Symptoms may only last a few weeks, but sometimes can persist for up to 6 months. Many infected with the Hepatitis B virus show no symptoms, but they can still spread the disease.
Visit your doctor if you think you may have Hepatitis B. Since symptoms are often not seen nor experienced, the disease usually needs to be diagnosed via blood tests. Such tests search for the presence of antigens and antibodies to help determine if you have:
The Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of inoculations that stimulate the body’s immune system to shield against the Hepatitis B virus. Once the vaccine is administered, antibodies are produced to shield the person against the virus. Antibodies are found in the bloodstream and are produced when the body detects a virus invading it. Once manufactured, the antibodies will stay in the body and fight an infection – like Hepatitis B – if the person is exposed to the virus in the future.
The Hepatitis B vaccine is typically administered in a sequence of 3-4 shots during a 6-month period.
It is recommended for:
To proactively reach those at risk for Hepatitis B, vaccination is also recommended for people in or seeking treatment from the following: