Preventing hepatitis B or C
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections cause irritation (inflammation) and swelling of the liver. You should take steps to prevent catching or spreading these viruses since these infections can cause chronic liver disease.
All children should get the hepatitis B vaccine.
- Babies should get a first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth. They should have all three shots in the series by age 6 to 18 months.
- Infants born to mothers who have acute hepatitis B or have had the infection in the past should get a special hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth.
- Children younger than age 19 who have not had the vaccine should get "catch-up" doses.
Adults at high risk for hepatitis B should also be vaccinated, including:
- Health care workers and those who live with someone who has hepatitis B
- People with end-stage kidney disease, chronic liver disease, or HIV infection
- People with multiple sex partners and men who have sex with other men
- People who use recreational, injectable drugs
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis B and C viruses are spread through contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person with the virus. The viruses are not spread through casual contact, such as holding hands, sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses, breastfeeding, kissing, hugging, coughing, or sneezing.
To avoid coming in contact with blood or bodily fluids of others:
- Avoid sharing personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes
- DO NOT share drug needles or other drug equipment (such as straws for snorting drugs)
- Clean blood spills with a solution containing 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water
- Be careful when getting tattoos and body piercings
- Practice safe sex (especially for prevention of hepatitis B)
Safe sex means taking steps before and during sex that can prevent you from getting an infection, or from giving an infection to your partner.
Other steps you can take
Screening of all donated blood has reduced the chance of getting hepatitis B and C from a blood transfusion. People newly diagnosed with hepatitis B infection should be reported to state health care workers to track the population's exposure to the virus.
The hepatitis B vaccine, or a hepatitis immune globulin (HBIG) shot, may help prevent infection if it is received it within 24 hours of contact with the virus.
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Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.