Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).1    

Anything that breaks the skin (graze, open wound) or an accident or medical emergency overseas that requires treatment places people at risk because they may be exposed to the hepatitis B virus living in the environment.3 

Seemingly harmless activities such as acupuncture, piercing, pedicures or tattooing increase your chances of being exposed as will unprotected sex with a new partner or needles used in illegal drug use.3 

Some individuals who get infected with hepatitis B remain infected for many years, and can become carriers (carry the virus without showing any symptoms) of the disease.4  Carriers are also capable of spreading the disease.The main concern with HBV infection is its ability to cause long-term infection, which may result in liver disease in some people including liver cancer.1,3

The risk of infection is significantly reduced in those who are adequately vaccinated against hepatitis B.7  People over 25 years of age, may have not been vaccinated against hepatitis B through the National Immunisation Programme. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how you can get protection if you were born before 1988.1  NZ health authorities recommend that all residents of NZ be age-appropriately immunised against hepatitis B.1

 

Hepatitis B occurs worldwide, with the risk of infection varying in different parts of the world.1

Hepatitis B FAQs

  • Hepatitis B - What is it?

    Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).1  Hepatitis B occurs worldwide, with the risk of infection varying in different parts of the world.1    It spreads from person to person through contact with infected blood or body fluids, such as blood, mucus and saliva. The hepatitis B virus can live up to 7 days outside the body 2 and can enter the skin through cuts, grazes or broken skin.1,3 People who are not vaccinated are at risk of hepatitis B infection if they come into contact with infected blood or body fluids.1,3  The main concern with HBV infection is its ability to cause long-term infection, which may result in liver disease in some people including liver cancer.1,3

  • Hepatitis B - How is it spread?

    Anything that breaks the skin (graze, open wound) or an accident or medical emergency overseas that requires treatment places people at risk because they may be exposed to the hepatitis B virus living in the environment.3 

     Seemingly harmless activities such as acupuncture, piercing, pedicures or tattooing increase your chances of being exposed as will unprotected sex with a new partner or needles used in illegal drug use.3

    Some individuals who get infected with hepatitis B remain infected for many years, and become carriers (carry the virus without showing any symptoms) of the disease.4  Carriers are also capable of spreading the disease.1

  • Hepatitis B - Who is at risk?

    The risk of infection is significantly reduced in those who are adequately vaccinated against hepatitis B.7  However, those who are not immune to the disease are at risk of infection if they come into contact with infected body fluids (blood, mucus and saliva).4  Certain situations or activities may increase the risk of contact with infected body fluids, including:4

    • skin piercing activities such as tattooing, piercing and acupuncture
    • injuries/accidents requiring a visit to a clinic or hospital or blood transfusion
    • manicures/pedicure
    • sharing personal grooming items such as razor blades, toothbrushes and earrings
    • sharing needles
    • unprotected sex with a new partner
  • Hepatitis B - What are the symptoms?

    Many HBV infections often show no symptoms or have mild symptoms.3,4  Early symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and joint pain.3  Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine and pale stools — the characteristic signs of liver infection — can also arise in some cases.3  Long-term infection may result in liver complications in some individuals, such as liver cancer.4  If you feel unwell while travelling or when you return home, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible

  • Hepatitis B - How is it prevented?

    People over 25 years of age, may have not been vaccinated against hepatitis B through the National Immunisation Programme. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how you can get protection if you were born before 1988.1  NZ health authorities recommend that all residents of NZ be age-appropriately immunised against hepatitis B.1 

    Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease, you should speak to your doctor or travel medicine specialist at least 6–8 weeks before you travel 5 to check if you are adequately protected against hepatitis B.

    Engerix-B® is a vaccine to help protect people against hepatitis B and usually involves 3 doses. After the first injection, further injections are given one and six months later. Alternatively rapid schedule may be administered at 0, 1 and 2 months or 0, 7 and 21 days with a booster dose at 12 months after the first dose of either rapid schedule.10

    Twinrix® is a combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine is available and requires three doses at 0, 1 and 6 months. A rapid schedule may be administered at 0, 7 or 21 days, with a booster at 12 months.11  Twinrix is ideal for those people who need protection against hepatitis A and B infections.

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