Hepatitis B Carriers
Who is a carrier of hepatitis B?
About 10 percent of adults and most children less than 5 years old infected with hepatitis B are unable to clear the infection from their bodies. These individuals no longer have symptoms but still carry the virus in their body.
How would I know if I am a carrier of hepatitis B?
Most people do not know they are carriers of hepatitis B unless they get a blood test. A carrier usually has no signs or symptoms of hepatitis B, but will be infected for the rest of his/her life and is capable of passing the disease to others. Although most carriers have no serious problems with hepatitis B, some carriers develop liver problems later. If your blood test is positive for hepatitis B surface antigen twice, six months apart, then you are considered a hepatitis B carrier. About 1.25 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B infection.
Is there any treatment?
Some people who are carriers have benefited from treatment. Your health care provider can discuss treatment with you.
How did I get my infection?
You can get hepatitis B by direct contact with blood or certain body fluids, like semen or vaginal secretions, of a person who has it. For example, you can get it by having sex or sharing needles with a person who has it. A baby can get it from its mother during birth. It may be spread within households if razors, toothbrushes, or other personal items are shared. Approximately 25 percent of all persons with hepatitis B have no idea how they got it.
How can I take care of myself?
Hepatitis B carriers should see a doctor regularly. Blood tests may be needed to check how the liver is working. Hepatitis B carriers should avoid alcohol because alcohol can further damage the liver. Your doctor should know about the medicines you are taking, even over-the-counter, because some medicines can hurt the liver. You should get the hepatitis A vaccine to avoid further liver damage should you get exposed to the hepatitis A virus.
How can I keep my family and friends from getting this?
- Talk to your health care provider or local health department about prevention and protection for your family and friends.
- Ensure anyone living in your household gets the hepatitis B vaccine.
- If you are a parent, make sure your children receive the hepatitis B vaccine.
- Inform any sexual partners that they should be tested for hepatitis B.
- Do not have unprotected sex.
- Do not let anyone touch your blood or body fluids.
- Do not share needles.
- Do not share personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors.
- If you are pregnant, be aware that your newborn will need special medicine and the hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth.
Why does my baby need medicine and vaccine shortly after birth?
Pregnant women who are infected with hepatitis B can spread the disease to their babies. Most babies will develop lifelong hepatitis B infection if they don't get special medicine and hepatitis B vaccine shortly after birth.