Hepatitis B

Wheaton College would like to inform you about the viral disease called Hepatitis B. This notification is required by the State of Wisconsin post-secondary institution statues for all incoming and transfer students.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. It results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

Acute Hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus. Acute infection can — but does not always — lead to chronic infection.

Chronic Hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. People can become infected with the virus during activities such as:

  • Birth (spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth)

  • Sex with an infected partner

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment

  • Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person

  • Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person

  • Exposure to blood from needle-sticks or other sharp instruments

How long does the Hepatitis B virus survive outside the body?

Hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body at least 7 days. During that time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not infected.

Does acute Hepatitis B cause symptoms?

Sometimes. Although a majority of adults develop symptoms from acute Hepatitis B virus infection, many young children do not. Adults and children over the age of 5 years are more likely to have symptoms. Seventy percent of adults will develop symptoms from the infection.

What are the symptoms of acute Hepatitis B?

Symptoms of acute Hepatitis B, if they appear, can include:

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dark urine

  • Clay-colored bowel movements

  • Joint pain

  • Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or the eyes)

How soon after exposure to Hepatitis B will symptoms appear?

On average, symptoms appear 90 days (or 3 months) after exposure, but they can appear any time between 6 weeks and 6 months after exposure.

What are the symptoms of chronic Hepatitis B?

Some people have ongoing symptoms similar to acute Hepatitis B, but most individuals with chronic Hepatitis B remain symptom free for as long as 20 or 30 years. About 15%–25% of people with chronic Hepatitis B develop serious liver conditions, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. Even as the liver becomes diseased, some people still do not have symptoms, although certain blood tests for liver function might begin to show some abnormalities.

Can Hepatitis B be prevented?

Yes. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine. The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective and is usually given as 3-4 shots over a 6-month period.

 What is the Hepatitis B vaccine series?

The Hepatitis B vaccine series is a sequence of shots that stimulate a person’s natural immune system to protect against HBV. After the vaccine is given, the body makes antibodies that protect a person against the virus. An antibody is a substance found in the blood that is produced in response to a virus invading the body. These antibodies are then stored in the body and will fight off the infection if a person is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus in the future.