Hepatitis B is a serious infectious disease that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus penetrates the liver cells and leads to an inflammation. This may cause a number of symptoms, depending on how serious the inflammation is. Symptoms may last for several weeks or months. The virus may go away, but sometimes the liver remains inflamed and the symptoms recur. A chronic infection could have long-term adverse effects such as a badly functioning liver or liver cancer. In some cases, the virus remains in the body without causing any symptoms. People who are carriers are infectious and can pass the virus on to others. The virus is transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid and blood - which is the most infectious.
If you are infected with the hepatitis B virus, you may not notice it at all. Only one in three people affected will experience symptoms, which will appear between two weeks and six months after infection
You can be vaccinated to prevent infection with hepatitis B. It is also possible to have an injection with antibodies to the virus within 48 hours after exposure to the virus. An infection can only be definitely diagnosed six months after exposure.
Use a condom for vaginal, anal and oral sex. Use a dental dam for licking the vagina or anus (rimming). The virus can survive outside the body for a long time, so be careful when sharing sex toys, toothbrushes or shaving equipment. As the disease is so infectious, people who have casual sex are advised to have themselves vaccinated. Contact your local GGD health centre.