How Does One Catch It?

The hepatitis B virus is spread by bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretion, and saliva. In countries where hepatitis B is common, the infection is frequently passed on from the infected mother to the newborn baby at the time of birth. In most developed countries, this method of transmission is uncommon because most pregnant women are not infected.

Essential

Even though hepatitis B cannot be transmitted via casual contacts (such as kissing), the virus is present in saliva. It can be passed between members of the same household. The exact route of transmission is unclear in this situation.

Nevertheless, hepatitis B still infects many individuals in developed countries because it is sexually transmitted. Being much more contagious than HIV, hepatitis B is a major sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It is especially common among homosexual men.

Alert

About 30 percent of the people who are infected with hepatitis B have never abused drugs, have had sexual partners who did not have hepatitis B, and have never received a blood transfusion. For these individuals, how they contracted hepatitis B is unknown.

Since the virus is present in the blood, one can acquire this infection from intravenous drug use or through blood transfusion. Despite valiant efforts to screen blood donors for this infection, it is still possible to get this infection from blood transfusion. This explains why hepatitis B infection is more common among those who get frequent blood transfusions (such as patients with hemophilia or sickle cell disease).

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