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Advice on Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infectious illness caused by a virus. It can cause inflammation of the liver with jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and dark urine. Some people who become infected with Hepatitis B do not get any symptoms.

Where people show symptoms, these include fever, nausea, abdominal pain or jaundice. It can take from two to six months from infection for symptoms to appear. The Hepatitis B virus is found in blood and in some body fluids such as saliva and semen.

The main ways it can be passed from person to person are:

  • Sharing needles and /or syringes
  • Sexual intercourse (especially between men)
  • Tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and electrolysis with non-sterile equipment
  • Infected mothers can pass the virus to their unborn baby

Some people have no symptoms but carry the virus in their blood. Such people are known as Hepatitis B carriers. Many carriers will not know they are infectious and will not have had any symptoms. The only way you will know if you have Hepatitis B is by a blood test which your Doctor can arrange for you.


How to avoid Hepatitis B

An effective vaccine is available, recommended for some visitors to areas where Hepatitis B is widespread (e.g. the Far East and Africa), and also high risk groups such as health care personnel, drug addicts, male homosexuals and those living and working in establishments where violence such as biting may occur.

  • If you inject yourself, never share needles or syringes with other people
  • Limit your number of sexual partners and use a condom. This will also help to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • If you are having a tattoo, acupuncture or ear/body piercing, always go to a registered practitioner. They should have a certificate to show that they have been inspected by an Environmental Health Officer.
  • Do not share razors or toothbrushes
  • Cover all open cuts with a waterproof dressing
  • Follow safety advice if your work involves contact with blood or blood products


If I get Hepatitis B, what precautions should I take?

Most people make a full recovery but it can take up to six months. A few people, however, suffer very severe symptoms and long term illness which can result in liver failure or cancer.

There is no specific treatment for the illness, although your Doctor would recommend that you take plenty of rest, eat healthily and avoid alcohol.

  • Practise strict personal hygiene and do not share toothbrushes, razors etc
  • Cover all open cuts with a waterproof dressing
  • Anyone you have had sexual intercourse with before or after you became ill should visit their Doctor

Your Doctor will advise you when you can return to work or school. For further advice or information, please do not hesitate to contact the Food Hygiene and Safety Team.

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