The hepatitis B virus is contagious from person to person. Hepatitis B, or HBV, is spread via blood, semen, or another bodily fluid. The most common Hepatitis B causes are:
Sexual intercourse (with an infected person)
Sharing of needles and other drug paraphernalia
Sharing shaving razors or toothbrushes
Direct contact with the open sores or blood of a hepatitis B victim
Hospital-infected needles and equipment
Birth to a hepatitis B mother
Hepatitis B is not necessarily chronic that is, lasting a lifetime but the younger a person is, the more likely it becomes that the hepatitis B virus will remain in the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, about 90 percent of those infected with hepatitis B when they are babies will become chronic, but from ages 1 to 5, the odds of hepatitis B lasting a lifetime drop to less than 50 percent. Among older children and adults, the risk drops to a mere 6 percent.
Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B is not spread through food or water, or by sharing eating utensils, or hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding. The most vulnerable hepatitis B populations are gay men, those who have a sexually transmitted disease or multiple sex partners, those who use hypodermic drugs and share needles, hemodialysis patients, and people who work around blood (medical personnel and phlebotomists).
There is a hepatitis B vaccine, routinely given two weeks in advance, and a hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) which can be used to help protect those who think they have been exposed within the last 24 hours. Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B confers immunity. That is, once you recover from the acute phase, you will not get hepatitis B again.
However, even if you have recovered and test negative for hepatitis B, health professionals recommend that you do not donate blood or semen. Surprisingly, a recent study on heart/lung transplants shows no added risk to recipients from organs taken from antigen- or antibody-positive former hepatitis B patients.