Hepatitis B: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease which causes irritation and inflammation of the liver due to infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Recovery Time

  • Symptoms appear an average of 45-180 days after you have contact with hepatitis B virus. This is called incubation period.
  • Acute hepatitis B infection lasts less than six months. If the disease is acute, your immune system is usually able to clear the virus from your body, and you should recover completely within a few months.
  • Chronic hepatitis B infection lasts six months or longer. When your immune system can not fight off the virus, hepatitis B infection may become lifelong.


  • Blood test (hepatitis viral panel)
  • Albumin level
  • Liver function tests
  • Prothrombin time
  • Liver biopsy

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  I am healthy; do I need to get screened for Hepatitis B?
High-Risk Populations for which HBV-Infection Screening Is Recommended
  • Persons born in countries/regions with a high (>8%) and intermediate (>2%) prevalence of HBV infection including immigrants and adopted children and including persons born in the United States who were not vaccinated as infants and whose parents immigrated from areas of high HBV endemicity.
  • Household and sexual contacts of persons with hepatitis B
  • Persons who have used injection drugs
  • Persons with multiple sexual contacts or a history of sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Inmates of correctional facilities
  • Persons with elevated alanine or aspartate aminotransferase levels
  • Persons with HCV or HIV infection
  • Hemodialysis patients
  • Pregnant women
  • Persons who require immunosuppressive or cytotoxic therapy

Q2.  I am hepatitis B, can I breast feed?
No special precautions are recommended for babies born to mothers with hepatitis B, and breast-feeding does not have to be restricted.
By contrast, the two non-percutaneous routes considered to have the greatest impact are intimate (especially sexual) contact and perinatal transmission.

Q3.  Why is it important for people to know if they are infected with a form of viral hepatitis?
      Early diagnosis provides the best opportunity for effective medical support. It also allows those infected to take steps to prevent transmission of the disease to others, for example by adopting safe sex practices. It allows lifestyle precautions to be undertaken to protect the liver from additional harm, specifically, by eliminating alcohol and certain drugs which are toxic to the liver.

Q4.  Let me know about the vaccination schedule of hepatitis B?
At 6th, 10th and 14th week by national immunization schedule implicated in some states Hep B vaccine is given to neonates along with DPT and OPV. The hepatitis B vaccine does not interfere with immune response to any other vaccine.
A combination vaccine containing inactivated hepatitis A and recombinant hepatitis B vaccines has been licensed since 1996 for use in children aged 1 year or older in several countries. The combination vaccine is given as a 3-dose series, using a 0, 1,6 months.
          For unvaccinated persons sustaining an exposure to HBV, a combination of HBIG (for rapid achievement of high-titer circulating anti-HBs) and hepatitis B vaccine (for achievement of long-lasting immunity as well as its apparent efficacy in attenuating clinical illness after exposure) is recommended.
For perinatal exposure of infants born to HBs Ag-positive mothers, a single dose of HBIG, 0.5 ml, should be administered IM in the thigh immediately after birth, followed by a complete course of three injections of recombinant hepatitis B vaccine (0, 1 and 6 months) to be started within the first 12 hours of life.

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