Hepatitis B | Symptoms & Causes

What causes hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is passed from person to person through contact with blood infected with HBV, sexual intercourse, or intravenous drug use. Mothers infected with HBV can pass the virus on to their children during childbirth, though doctors can reduce that risk by giving newborns both the hepatitis B vaccine and a medication called hepatitis B immune globulin (or HBIG) within about 12 hours of birth.

While the number of new cases of hepatitis B in the United States has dropped dramatically in the last two decades – thanks to the vaccination – the Centers for Disease Control estimates between 885,000 and 2.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic HBV infection.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

The majority of children with acute hepatitis B have no symptoms. Parents typically have no idea their child is infected. Over time, as the virus causes increasing damage to the liver, the following symptoms may appear:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • dark urine
  • muscle soreness
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pain
  • jaundice