Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection (STBBI) caused by a virus, which can be protected against by getting a vaccination. In Québec, you can get vaccinated against hepatitis B for free at school. The vaccine is currently administered in two doses: the first dose is administered in Grade 4, and the second in Secondary 3. Most of the time, people infected with hepatitis B show no symptoms, but they are carriers of the virus and may transmit it unknowingly.
The hepatitis B virus is present in several bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal secretions, blood, and saliva. It can be transmitted:
- Through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person (with or without symptoms)
- By having oral sex (particularly through anilingus and, less frequently, through cunnilingus and fellatio)
- Through vaginal penetration (penis penetrating the vagina)
- Through anal penetration (penis penetrating the anus)
- By sharing sex toys
- And less frequently, by masturbating an infected person
- By sharing contaminated paraphernalia used to sniff or inject drugs (straws, needles, pipes, etc.)
- Through contact with unsterilized tattoo, piercing, or acupuncture equipment
- By sharing personal hygiene items with an infected person (toothbrush, razor, nail clippers, etc.)
- During labour, as the baby may be infected if their mother is a carrier.
Some people have no symptoms and as a result, they do not know that they have the virus and may unknowingly transmit it. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an infected person with symptoms may observe the following signs:
- Lower abdominal pain
- Dark urine or light-coloured stool
- Loss of appetite
- A yellow tinge to the skin or the whites of the eyes
Important: you may experience several of these symptoms without having hepatitis B. If you’re vaccinated, you cannot contract the virus. If in doubt, check your vaccination record.
Testing and Treatment 🔍
Testing is done by taking a blood sample. There are no treatments or medicine for hepatitis B. However, in most cases, the virus can be defeated by the immune system within six months (but it can still be transmitted during this time). Once the virus has been fought off, you can no longer contract nor transmit it.
You can avoid contracting hepatitis B by getting vaccinated against it. In Québec, this vaccine is provided for free at school. People who have not been vaccinated can request a vaccine from their doctor, from a medical clinic, or from a CLSC.
The best way to avoid contracting or transmitting hepatitis B is to get vaccinated. Make sure that your partners have also been completely vaccinated.