Frequently Asked Questions about Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)


Q. Who is at risk?

A. In 2001, an estimated 78,000 persons in the United States were infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). People of all ages get HBV and about 5,000 die per year of sickness caused by it.

Q. How great is my risk for HBV?

A. One out of 20 people in the United States will get infected with HBV some time during their lives. Your risk is higher if you:

  • Have sex with someone infected with HBV
  • Have sex with more than one partner
  • Are a man and have sex with a man
  • Live in the same house with someone who has lifelong HBV infection
  • Have a job that involves contact with human blood
  • Are a patient or work in a home for the developmentally disabled
  • Have hemophilia
  • Travel to areas where HBV is common
  • Inject drugs

Your risk also higher if you or your parents were born in Southeast Asia, Africa, the Amazon Basin in South America, the Pacific Islands, or the Middle East.

Q. How might I get HBV?

A. You get HBV by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person; for example, you can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person. A baby can get HBV from infected mother during childbirth. Babies who get HBV at birth may have the virus for the rest of their lives, can spread the disease, and can get cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

HBV is not spread through food or water or by casual contact.

Q. Is there a cure for HBV?

A. There are medications available to treat long-lasting (chronic) HBV infection. These medications work for some people, but there is no cure for HBV when you first get it. That is why prevention is so important. Hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection against HBV. Three doses are needed for complete protection.

Q. Who should get vaccinated?

  • All babies at birth
  • All children from birth to 18 years of age who have not been vaccinated. Most incoming students from Wisconsin will have had the vaccine series as a requirement for entrance into seventh grade. This requirement began in 1997.
  • Persons of any age whose behavior puts them at high risk for HBV infection
  • Persons whose jobs expose them to human blood

Q. What are the benefits of the vaccine?

  • Hepatitis B vaccine prevents HBV and its serious consequences, such as hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). This makes the hepatitis B vaccine the first vaccine to prevent cancer
  • The vaccine can also help prevent cirrhosis of the liver-a common problem for people infected with chronic HBV.

Q. How safe and effective is the vaccine?

  • Medical, scientific, and public health communities strongly endorse using the hepatitis B vaccine as a safe and effective way to prevent disease and death.
  • Scientific data show that hepatitis B vaccines are very safe for infants, children, and adults.
  • UW-Parkside students are able to obtain HBV vaccine doses at Student Health & Counseling, There is a fee for each dose of the vaccine (three doses are needed). Students 18 years of age may receive the vaccine for free at SHCC.
  • There is a minimum interval between the three shots, but it is never too late to achieve the total of three, so there is no reason to start over. Students may prefer to finish the series at home during Thanksgiving or winter break, especially if there is no out-of-pocket cost.
  • To assure a high standard of safety with vaccines, several federal agencies continually assess and research possible or potential health affects that could be associated with vaccines.

Q. Are there adverse effects?

  • Case reports of unusual illnesses following vaccines are most often related to other causes, not related to the vaccine. Whenever large numbers of vaccine are given, some adverse events will occur coincidentally after vaccination and may be falsely attributed to the vaccine.
  • Anyone believing they have had a possible reaction or adverse health effect from a vaccine should report it to their health care provider. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (1-800-822-7967) receives reports from health care providers and others about vaccine side effects.


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