Postexposure Treatment for Hepatitis B
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening disease that affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis B virus.1
How is it contracted?
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through the blood or other bodily fluids of a contaminated person to a noncontaminated person. This happens through sexual contact with an infected person, sharing of drugs or needles, percutaneous (through the skin) exposures, tattooing and body piercing in an unsanitary environment, unsafe injections in medical environments in developing countries, needlesticks or sharps if you work in a medical environment, and, if a mother is infected, she can pass hepatitis B virus to her child.2
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms you may encounter if exposed to hepatitis B are fever, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, joint or abdominal pain, vomiting, dark urine, light-colored stool, and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Keep in mind that most adults with acute hepatitis B will show symptoms, but children—especially those under 5 years of age—will not necessarily show any symptoms of hepatitis B.1
How can I prevent hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent hepatitis B in conjunction with a hepatitis B immune globulin such as HyperHEP B S/D.3
What is a hepatitis B immune globulin and why isn't a vaccine enough?
Hepatitis B immune globulin is a treatment that contains high levels of hepatitis B antibodies. An immune globulin works much faster than a vaccine, but does not last as long. Because of the potentially life-threatening nature of hepatitis B, after exposure, doctors will give you a hepatitis B immune globulin shot like HyperHEP B S/D and a vaccine to make sure you get the comprehensive care you need.3,4