Hepatitis B is an infection caused by a virus. In most cases, people infected with hepatitis B don’t have any symptoms but they’re carrying the virus and can transmit it, sometimes without knowing it. It’s a very contagious infection.
- by unprotected sexual contact with an infected person
- by blood-to-blood contact with an infected person (for example, pricking yourself with a used and contaminated needle or syringe)
- by sharing personal hygiene items with an infected person (toothbrush, razor, emery board, etc.)
- during birth, since a baby can be infected if the mother has the disease
The hepatitis B virus is present in almost all body fluids, such as semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and saliva.
Screening and treatment 🔍
Screening is done by a blood test. There is no treatment that can cure this infection.
Nevertheless, 90% of infected people are cured spontaneously in less than 6 months; this means that the people produce antibodies and are no longer able to catch or transmit the virus. However, 10% of infected people continue to carry the virus and may suffer from long-term complications.
There is a vaccine against hepatitis B. This vaccine is given in 3 doses spread out over 6 months. It is administered free of charge to Grade 4 students and people at risk.
A person who has engaged in at-risk sex or another risky behaviour, such as sharing needles, can receive preventive treatment. The person is given an injection within 24 to 48 hours to prevent infection by the virus. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or another health care professional at a medical clinic or your CLSC.
People at risk are:
- hypodermic syringe users
- people who work in health care and daycares
- people who travel abroad
- people who receive dialysis or blood transfusions
- people with multiple sexual partners
To avoid spreading the infection, always use a condom during sex, don’t share needles, and ask your sexual partners to see a doctor and take a screening test, even if they don’t have any symptoms.