You can protect yourself from hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection by avoiding contact with the body fluids of someone whose health and sexual history are not known to you. To prevent infection:
Use a condom when you have sex.
Do not share needles.
Do not share toothbrushes or razors.
Wear latex or plastic gloves if you have to touch blood.
The hepatitis B vaccine(What is a PDF document?) is the most effective way to prevent infection with HBV. The vaccine is up to 95% effective against HBV infection if you receive all the shots in the vaccination series (three shots given at different times).5 The vaccine provides protection against HBV infection for at least 15 years.6 A combination vaccine for hepatitis A and B also is available. Vaccination is recommended for:
All newborn babies.
Anyone 18 years old or younger who has not previously received the vaccine.
People who inject illegal drugs.
People who have had more than one sex partner in the past 6 months or who have a history of sexually transmitted diseases.
Men who have sex with men.
Household contacts and sex partners of people who have hepatitis B.
People who have blood-clotting disorders, such as hemophilia, and have received clotting factors from human donors.
People who have a severe kidney disease that requires them to have their blood filtered through a machine (hemodialysis).
Health care workers and public safety workers who are likely to be exposed to blood.
Staff and residents of prisons or institutions for the developmentally disabled.
People who will spend more than 6 months in parts of the world where hepatitis B is common or where a large number of people have chronic HBV infection. Such areas include Southeast and Central Asia, the islands of the South Pacific, the Amazon River basin, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and China.
It is important that you discuss vaccination with your health professional even if you are not in one of the above categories. In the United States, about 15 out of 100 of those who become infected do not know how they got infected.1
In some cases, a health professional will order postvaccination testing to make sure you have developed immunity to the hepatitis B virus. People who need this testing include those who have an impaired immune system or those who are health care workers or sex partners of people who have long-term (chronic) HBV infection.
If you are exposed to the virus before you have received all three shots in the vaccination series, you may be given a dose of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) soon afterward. In most cases, HBIG will prevent infection until the vaccine takes effect.
If you have had sex with someone who has hepatitis B and you have not received all three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, you should receive a shot of HBIG-in addition to continuing the vaccine series-within 14 days of being exposed to HBV.
Hepatitis B is easily spread, so if you are already infected, there are many steps you can take to prevent the spread of HBV to others (such as not donating blood or not sharing razors or other toiletries). If you are not infected, there also are steps you can take to protect yourself against HBV infection (such as getting vaccinated or using condoms). For more information on preventing the spread of hepatitis B, see the topics Immunizations and Exposure to Sexually Transmitted Diseases.