Risks and Causes

Learn more about how you may have been exposed to hepatitis B on this page.

How can hepatitis B virus be passed on?

Hepatitis B virus is very contagious, it can be passed on through blood, semen (cum) and vaginal fluids.

Mother to Child during child birth

Mother to Child transmission of hepatitis B virus during child birth is the most common means of transmitting HBV. The process posses serious risk to the newborn as it involves direct contact with blood and other body fluids of an infected mother.

1 in 4 babies infected with HBV at birth develop lifetime disease and liver complications later in life therefore all pregnant mothers must be screened for hepatitis B during their 1st antenatal visit; Ensure they are vaccinated fully 3 times (at 0, 1 and 6 months) as the vaccine is safe for them too else you should talk to your doctor to start treatment if HBV+ positive so as to reduce the risk of transmission to the newborn.

All newborns must be vaccinated with the hepatitis B birth dose within the 1st 24 hours of life followed by the pentavalent vaccine given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of life so as to get lifetime protection against the hepatitis B virus.

Sexual contact

Hepatitis B virus may be transmitted during unprotected sex with an infected person.

The risk of sexually transmitting hepatitis B depends on the type of sex you are having. 

Any activity which results in one or both partners bleeding is considered higher risk for transmission.

High risk sexual behavior:

  • During anal sex
  • During rough vaginal sex
  • if you or your partner has ulcers or open wounds.
  • Engaging in sex when you or your partner is on their period.
  • Unvaccinated adults who have multiple sex partners, along with sex partners of people with chronic hepatitis B infection
  • Oral sex, risk is very low however transmission is possible if blood is present.

Personal Hygiene Products

Sharing of personal hygiene products like tooth brushers, razors, shavers and nail clippers among others with a HBV infected person can put you at a high risk of hepatitis B infection.

In order to reduce risk, shared products such as scissors, clippers and razors must be 1st sterilized every time they are to be used as they may have been exposed to infected blood.

Avoid sharing of toothbrushes, this is risky behavior as you may share it with someone who has bleeding gums or a mouth injury; transmission is possible thou risk is low.

There is a risk of contracting hepatitis B at the hairdresser or barber. Ensure your hair salon takes health and safety measures by sterilizing equipment between each customer.

In conclusion, reduce your risk of infection by avoiding the sharing of personal hygiene products which can cut or graze the skin and also ensure you and your loved ones are fully vaccinated against hepatitis B virus.

Eliminate transmission of new infections

Find out more about how to protect yourself and your sexual partner on our Preventing transmission page.