STDs: What to Know about Hepatitis B
6 of 13 in Series: The Essentials of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Hepatitis B is one of two sexually transmitted diseases for which a preventive vaccine exists. Hepatitis B is very contagious, 100 times more so than HIV. Hepatitis B can be transmitted through intimate contact as well as sexual contact, so kissing, sharing the same toothbrush, or sharing needles can transmit the disease. Health-care workers are particularly susceptible and almost always get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B can cause severe liver disease or death, but the virus often has no symptoms during its most contagious phases.
While reported cases number about 240,000 a year, estimates show that 1 American in 20 will get hepatitis B at some point during his or her lifetime, and the disease can remain active throughout that person’s life.
No medical treatment exists for hepatitis B, but in 90 percent of cases, the body’s own immunological response causes the disease to fade away. It is particularly important that people with multiple sex partners get vaccinated.