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Hepatitis B

Summary

Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. One type, hepatitis B, is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B spreads by contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, or other body fluid. An infected woman can give hepatitis B to her baby at birth.

If you get HBV, you may feel as if you have the flu. You may also have jaundice, a yellowing of skin and eyes, dark-colored urine, and pale bowel movements. Some people have no symptoms at all. A blood test can tell if you have it. HBV usually gets better on its own after a few months. If it does not get better, it is called chronic HBV, which lasts a lifetime. Chronic HBV can lead to scarring of the liver, liver failure, or liver cancer.

There is a vaccine for HBV. It requires three shots. All babies should get the vaccine, but older children and adults can get it too. If you travel to countries where Hepatitis B is common, you should get the vaccine.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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