Myths vs. Facts

It is important to get accurate hepatitis B facts so you can tell if you are at risk for the disease. If you are at risk, it is important to visit a medical professional, get tested and get proper treatment.

Myth 1: People get hepatitis B by eating contaminated food

Hepatitis B is found in the blood and body fluids of someone with the infection.1

You can only get hepatitis B by coming into contact with someone with the virus.2 This can happen through unprotected sex, sharing needles or syringes, and using unclean equipment at barber shops and tattoo parlors. Additionally, pregnant women also can spread the virus to their babies during childbirth.1

Medical professionals also are at risk for getting hepatitis B and should follow proper procedures for protecting themselves.2

However, there are other types of hepatitis. They are hepatitis Ahepatitis Chepatitis Dhepatitis E, and hepatitis G. Both hepatitis A3 and hepatitis E4 can be spread through contaminated food and drinking water.

However, hepatitis B is only spread through blood and body fluids.1

Myth 2: Hepatitis B is a rare disease so I am not likely to come into contact with it.

Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world.5

More than one-third of the world’s population is infected with the hepatitis B virus.2 Some 400 million people worldwide are chronically infected.6 This means they have a serious form of the disease that can lead to serious liver disease and liver cancer.2 It is urgent that people who are at risk for hepatitis B visit their medical professionals and get tested.

Myth 3: People with hepatitis B know they have the disease because of symptoms like yellow skin or yellow eyes.

Many people with hepatitis B do not feel sick.

Only 30% of the people who are infected with the virus show any signs or symptoms of hepatitis B.7 The only way to know if you have hepatitis B is to ask your medical professional. He or she can do a hepatitis B blood test to find out for sure.1

Myth 4: People with hepatitis B will get very sick and die from a serious liver disease or liver cancer.

About 90% of people infected with the hepatitis B virus have acute infection.8 This will last for a few weeks or months but the person will recover totally and not have any lasting health problems.8

However, about 10% of people infected with the virus will have chronic hepatitis B.2 This is the more serious form of the infection and can lead to a serious liver disease, even liver cancer.8 Some 15-25% of people who are chronically infected will eventually develop serious liver conditions such as cirrhosis or liver cancer.1

Myth 5: People with the hepatitis B virus will develop hepatitis A and hepatitis C infections over the course of time.

There are several different types of hepatitis and each is caused by a different virus.4

However, hepatitis B won’t turn into another type of hepatitis. People with the hepatitis B virus are still at risk for becoming infected with one of the other hepatitis viruses.9

  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is generally spread by coming into contact with the faeces of an infected person. This happens because of poor sanitary habits, such as not washing your hands after going to the bathroom.3
  • Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus and is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. It is passed from one person to another through blood and body fluids.2
  • Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus. It is generally spread through blood transfusions. In most countries, donated blood is now checked for the virus before it is given to someone.10
  • Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D is caused by the hepatitis D virus. The hepatitis D virus needs the hepatitis B virus to survive. Sometimes, people with hepatitis B also get hepatitis D because both are passed from one person to the other through blood and body fluids.11
  • Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus. Similar to the hepatitis A virus, it is spread by coming into contact with the faeces of an infected person.
  • Hepatitis G: Not a lot is known about the hepatitis G virus or even if it causes illness. It may be transmitted through contaminated blood in blood transfusions.12

Myth 6: Hepatitis B vaccines will prevent people with the hepatitis B virus from getting sick.

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Many countries have access to effective hepatitis B vaccine.14 Often in these countries, babies are given the vaccine at birth.2

People who have been infected need to visit their medical professionals and learn about the best treatments for controlling the virus.

Myth 7: I can inherit hepatitis B from my parents.

You can only get hepatitis B by coming into contact with the blood or body fluids of someone with the virus.2

Hepatitis B cannot be inherited from your parents. However, pregnant women with hepatitis B can spread the virus to their babies during childbirth.1

 

 

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B FAQs for the Public. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/B/bFAQ.htm#. Accessed May 2011.

2  World Health Organisation. Hepatitis B Fact Sheet. Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/. Accessed February 2014.

3 World Health Organisation. Hepatitis A Fact Sheet. Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/index.htm. Accessed February 2014.

4 World Health Organisation. Hepatitis E Fact Sheet. Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs280/en/index.html. Accessed May 2011.

5 Hepatitis Australia. Hepatitis B Fact Sheet. Available at www.hepedu.org.au/factsheets/pdf/HepB_VirusSummary.pdf . Accessed May 2011.

6 Hepatitis B Foundation. General Information: FAQ. Available at http://www.hepb.org/patients/general_information.htm. Accessed February 2014.

7 Hepatitis B Foundation. Symptoms. Available at http://www.hepb.org/hepb/symptoms.htm. Accessed July 2012.

8 Hepatitis B Foundation. Acute vs. Chronic Hepatitis B. Available at http://www.hepb.org/patients/acute_vs_chronic.htm. Accessed May 2011.

9 Hepatitis B Foundation. Hepatitis D Co-Infection. Available at http://www.hepb.org/hepb/hepdconinfection.htm. Accessed May 2011.

10 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public. Available at  www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm#overview. Accessed February 2014.

11Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis D Information for Health Professionals. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HDV/index.htm. Accessed February 2014.

12 Public Health Agency of Canada. Hepatitis G Fact Sheet. Available at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hcai-iamss/bbp-pts/hepatitis/hep_g-eng.php. Accessed February 2014.

13 Hepatitis B Foundation. Hepatitis B. Available at  http://www.hepb.org/hepatitisbcd/modules/infectd/id450101/id459101.pdf. Accessed May 2011.

14 EUVAC.NET. National Childhood Vaccination Schedules. Available at  http://www.euvac.net/graphics/euvac/vaccination/vaccination.html. Accessed February 2014.