Half of all people infected with the hepatitis B virus have no symptoms and may never realize that they have been infected. Adults are more likely to develop symptoms than children. For those who do get sick, symptoms usually develop within 1 to 4 months after exposure to the virus. The initial symptoms are often similar to the flu.
The Hepatitis B virus is known as a blood-borne virus because it is transmitted from one person to another via blood or fluids contaminated with blood. Another important route of transmission is from an infected mother to a newborn child, which occurs during or shortly after birth. It is called vertical transmission.
Direct contract with blood may occur through the use of dirty needles during illicit drug use, accidental needle pricks experienced by healthcare workers, or contact with blood through other means. Semen, which contain small amounts of blood, and saliva that is contaminated with blood also carry the virus.
The virus may be transmitted when these fluids come in contact with broken skin or a mucous membrane (in the mouth, genital organs, or rectum) of an uninfected person. Continue reading →