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Primary Risk Factors of Hepatitis B

by Chari Cohen, Hepatitis B Expert
February 01, 2018

Question: What are the primary risk factors of Hep B?

Answer: The hepatitis B virus can infect infants, children, teens and adults. It is not a genetic disease – it is an infectious disease, caused by a virus that is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids. It can be passed to others through direct contact with blood, unprotected sex, use of illegal drugs, unsterilized or contaminated needles, and from an infected woman to her newborn during pregnancy or childbirth. Most people around the world are infected at birth due to the blood exchange that occurs from mother to baby during childbirth.

Body piercing, tattooing, acupuncture and even nail salons are other potential routes of infection unless sterile needles and equipment are used. In addition, sharing sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, earrings and body jewelry can be a source of infection. Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted casually. It cannot be spread through toilet seats, doorknobs, sneezing, coughing, hugging or eating meals with someone who is infected with hepatitis B.
     
Although everyone may be at risk for a hepatitis B infection during their lifetime, there are groups of people who are at higher risk. The following individuals should talk to their doctor about getting tested:
1.    Health care providers and emergency responders
2.    Sexually active individuals (more than 1 partner in the past six months)
3.    Men who have sex with men
4.    Individuals diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease
5.    Illicit drug users (injecting, inhaling, snorting, pill popping)
6.    Sexual partners or those living in close household contact with an infected person
7.    Individuals born in countries where hepatitis B is common (Asia, Africa, South America, Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East)
8.    Individuals born to parents who have emigrated from countries where hepatitis B is common (see #7)
9.    Children adopted from countries where hepatitis B is common (see #7)
10.    Adoptive families of children from countries where hepatitis B is common (see #7)
11.    Kidney dialysis patients and those in early kidney (renal) failure
12.    Inmates and staff of a correctional facility
13.    Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
14.    ALL pregnant women

To learn about hepatitis B transmission and prevention, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation.

Chari Cohen is Director of Public Health for the Hepatitis B Foundation.

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