Hepatitis B

is an inflammation of the liver, caused by the hepatitis B virus. The infection caused by the hepatitis B virus can heal by itself, but it can also remain permanently (become chronic).

How the infection evolves?

Often, persons with a hepatitis B infection have only few or no symptoms of disease, which are frequently confused with those of a flu.
The infection heals by itself (acute Hepatitis B infection). In few cases (5 to 10%), the infection becomes chronic and needs to be controlled and treated, when needed, to avoid a liver failure.

How to perceive to be infected?

Possible complaints:    

  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Headaches, muscle and joint pain
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Yellowing of the eyes and the skin
  • Dark urine, pale stool

The seriousness of the symptoms arising that are the complaints can vary from person to person. Some people do not perceive anything.

There is the possibility that only mild or no symptoms arise, even in a chronic infection. The virus can damage the liver however, so that liver diseases can arise after years.

Routes of transmission

The hepatitis B Virus is primarily transmitted having sex and through blood-to-blood contact or contact between other body fluids like semen and vaginal secretion. Small amounts of the virus can be found in saliva, tears and breast milk, too.

Frequent routes of transmission:

  • Unprotected sexual contacts
  • Shared use of syringes, needles and tubes etc. for the drug utilization
  • Inappropriate carrying out of tattooing, piercing and ear piercing
  • From the mother to the child in pregnancy, childbirth and during breastfeeding

How to protect yourself?

A vaccination provides reliable protection against the hepatitis A virus.
The use of condoms provides a high level of protection having sex. A good penis protection is also provided using condoms and latex sheets, which cover the vagina or anus (Dental Dam) for the application of sexual practices using the mouth, the lips or the tongue (oral sex).
Use your own accessories for the drug utilization.
Tattooing, piercing and ear piercing must be carried out in hygienic conditions and using sterile material.
A child of an infected mother is vaccinated straight after the birth.

Examination methods

A blood test can detect an infection with the hepatitis B Virus.


A new (acute) hepatitis B infection is mostly not treated. Sometimes, the symptoms of the diseases are treated.
When a hepatitis B infection heals, usually, a contagion cannot occur for a second time.
There is a therapy to cure the chronic hepatitis B. Usually, the medicine cannot eliminate the virus from the body, but it can inhibit permanently the viral reproduction and stop the disease. If the hepatitis B evolves in a mild form, it is only controlled and not treated.
Unknown and not treated chronic infected persons can be permanently infectious and transmit the virus to others.
In principle, one can say: Prevention is better than treat. There is a safe and effective hepatitis B vaccination.

More recommendations

In the case of infection with hepatitis B, using medicine destined for PrEP to provide protection against an infection with HIV is not permitted.

The advice centres for AIDS/STI of the Departments of Public Health in NRW provide anonymous and free advice about hepatitis A and the opportunities of vaccinations.

Beratungs- & Testangebot

Advice Centre for AIDS-/STI