Every year, more than 885,000 people die from the complications of hepatitis B infection.1
Risk areas for Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is spread in blood and body fluids. It can be caught through unprotected sex with someone infected with the virus, or by exposure to contaminated blood through the reuse of needles or syringes (for example, while injecting drugs or during medical procedures).1
It can also be caught by sharing toothbrushes or razors, or having body piercings or tattoos using unsterilised equipment.1
Hepatitis B is found in every country, but the risk is higher in South America, Africa, eastern Europe and Asia (see map).2
Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and pain in the abdomen.1 These symptoms usually take 1-3 months to pass but can sometimes take longer, leading to chronic hepatitis B.3
Hepatitis B is a serious disease. Though the initial symptoms generally pass within months, the virus can cause long-term and potentially fatal liver damage.1,3 It can also lead to the development of cirrhosis (a scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.1 Treatment can keep the virus under control and reduce this risk.1
You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:
- Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
- Don’t have unprotected sex (e.g. use condoms)1
- Don’t share or use unsterilised equipment to inject drugs4
- Have medical procedures, tattoos and body piercing only where you can be sure equipment has been sterilised4
- Don’t share personal items that could be contaminated with blood
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- World Health Organization. Factsheet. Hepatitis B. July 2020. Available online: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-b (Last accessed May 2021)
- World Health Organization. Hepatitis B, countries or areas at risk. 2012. Available online: http://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/Files/Maps/Global_HepB_ITHRiskMap.png (Last accessed May 2021)
- NHS. Conditions. Hepatitis B. January 2019. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-b/ (Last accessed May 2021)
- The Mayo Clinic. Disease and Conditions. Hepatitis B. September 2020. Available online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/symptoms-causes/syc-20366802 (Last accessed May 2021)
UK-BOTB-2100023 May 2021