Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of the most common blood-borne viruses worldwide and is a major cause of chronic liver disease and liver cancer. It is estimated that worldwide more than 240million people are persistently infected with Hepatitis B (HepB). HepB is caused by HBV which spreads through blood, semen and vaginal fluids. It can be spread from:

  • Having vaginal, anal or oral sex without using a condom or dam
  • Injecting drugs using shared needles.
  • Being injured by a used needle
  • Having a tattoo or piercing with unsterilised equipment
  • Having a blood transfusion that does not check blood for HepB. Blood transfusions in the UK are checked for HepB. Pregnant people can also pass the HBV to baby during pregnancy or birth.

Who is at risk from Hepatitis B?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent HepB. In the UK, the HepB vaccine is given to babies as part of the 6-in1 vaccine. Adults only need to get vaccine if they are at risk, for example:

  • Travelling to high-risk countries in:
    • Africa, Asia, the Middle East, parts of South America and Eastern Europe
  • Those with liver or kidney disease
  • Those with HIV
  • Those whose jobs put them at risk of infection – for example, healthcare worker or work in a prison.

What are the symptoms?

Most cases of HepB do not show any symptoms following an incubation period of 40 to 160 days. The infection usually lasts for 1 to 3 months. If the infection lasts longer than 6 months, it is called chronic hepatitis B. Those that experience symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Tummy pain
  • Feeling and being sick
  • Occasional high temperature
  • Dark urine and pale stools
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin

DC Hepatitis B Vaccination Service?

HepB vaccine is recommended for all travellers who are a high risk of HBV. Any traveller can be at
risk of an accident or require emergency treatment. It is also recommended to travellers whose
behaviours to travel plans place them at risk i.e.

  • Those that may have unprotected sex.
  • Those that maybe directly exposed to blood or blood products through their occupation
    such as healthcare professionals or aid workers.
  • Those that may be exposed to contaminated needles through injecting drug use, or as a
    result of accessing medical or dental care e.g., those with pre-existing medical conditions
    e.g., dialysis patients who intend to undergo dialysis overseas and those travelling for
    medical care
  • Those that are participating in contact sports.
  • Those that are adopting children from a country with an intermediate or high rates of HBV.
  • Long stay travellers in areas of high or intermediate rates of HBV infection

Can I use the DC Hepatitis B Vaccination Service?

This service is not suitable to those that:

  • Have had severe reactions to HepB vaccines in the past.
  • Have a high temperature. Your DC pharmacist will double check your suitability for the vaccine.

What are the side effects to the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

As with all vaccines, more than 1 in 10 people may experience minor side effects, such as swelling, redness or tenderness where the injection is given. Sometimes a small painless lump develops, but it usually disappears in a few weeks. Other common reactions include:

  • feeling dizzy
  • feeling or being sick (nausea and vomiting)
  • high temperature
  • headache
  • Flu-like symptoms

What happens next?

  1. Book a virtual consultation via online portal
  2. A DC pharmacist will review your suitability for the yellow fever vaccine service
  3. Receive vaccine at our centres

How long will this take?

The first consultation will take 15 – 30 minutes (depending on your past medical history). The vaccination appointment will take 30 minutes (including a 15 minutes observed wait in case of severe reaction)

What else do I need to know before appointment?

The vaccine will be administered in the upper arm of your choice. The vaccine is given as 2 separate injections 4 to 8 weeks apart. It has been shown that 9 out of 10 children vaccinated with a single dose will develop immunity against chicken pox. Having 2 doses is recommended as this gives a better immune response. The vaccination is not quite as affective after childhood. It is estimated that three-quarters of teenagers and adults who are vaccinated will become immune to chicken pox.