Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver which is caused by the hepatitis B virus. In most cases, a hepatitis B infection in adults is acute, in which case the body is able to overcome the virus by itself without the risk of contracting hepatitis B again. However, hepatitis B can become chronic in up to 10% of those affected, in other words, the virus can still be detected in the blood 6 months after infection and can also infect other people.1 Patients with chronic hepatitis B also have an increased risk of cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.2
Acute hepatitis B is rarely cured in young children and people with a weakened immune system and becomes chronic in up to 90% of cases.1
Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases:1
Hepatitis B is very contagious. It is mainly transmitted by blood, but can also be found in other bodily fluids such as saliva, tears, semen and vaginal secretions. The viruses are most frequently transmitted during
Hepatitis B can go undetected for quite a long time since it is often not noticeable and typical signs of the disease are lacking. You should be alert and consult a doctor if you notice the following symptoms over a long period of time:1
Blood is tested for antibodies against the virus and various virus components in order to detect a hepatitis B infection.1
People who are legally insured and over 35 years of age also have the opportunity to be tested once for hepatitis B (and also C) free of charge as part of the “health check-up”.4
Since infected mothers can pass the virus on to the child during birth, pregnant women are tested for hepatitis B as standard from the 32nd week of pregnancy.1 Hepatitis D should also be tested for if the hepatitis B virus has been detected. Contracting hepatitis D at the same time can have a negative effect on the progression of liver disease.1
An acute hepatitis B infection in adults usually resolves without consequences and the symptoms disappear by themselves after a few weeks.1 When hepatitis B has become chronic, however, it is necessary to visit the doctor regularly so that the progression of the disease can be monitored and changes in the liver can be detected at an early stage.5 In principle, drug therapy is an option. There are two options available for this:1
Hepatitis B is not curable in most cases, but early treatment can reduce the risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer.1,3 It is up to the doctor treating you to decide which form of treatment is best for you.
There has been a very effective and well-tolerated vaccination against hepatitis B since 1982, which is recommended for babies as young as 2 months.1,5 It is the best protection against infection with the hepatitis B virus. Anyone who has been vaccinated against hepatitis B cannot contract hepatitis D either.
The risk of infection can also be reduced by avoiding contact with the blood and other bodily fluids of infected people as much as possible, for instance through the following behaviours and measures:1
Find out more about hepatitis D! What makes it different from hepatitis B? And how can you protect yourself?