Hepatitis B

Did you know? 

Many people who get hepatitis B show no symptoms and may not know they have the disease. 

The disease

  • Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver.
  • It can cause serious disease including permanent liver damage called cirrhosis. It is also one of the main causes of liver cancer, which can be fatal.
  • The hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person. This includes an accidental or intentional poke with a used needle, being splashed in the mouth, nose, or eyes with infected blood, being bitten by an infected person, sharing items that may have blood on them such as a toothbrush, dental floss or razor, and by having unprotected sex with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus. Mothers who are infected with hepatitis B virus can pass the virus to their newborn babies during delivery.
  • When young children get infected with the hepatitis B virus they often do not have symptoms but most will stay infected for life. This is why getting protection from the vaccine at a young age is important. 

The vaccine

  • The hepatitis B vaccine is provided free to infants as part of their routine immunizations at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. It is usually given as a combined vaccine with diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (the DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib vaccine).
  • The hepatitis B vaccine is also provided to students in Grade 6 who have not received the vaccine.
  • People born in 1980 or later who have never received the hepatitis B vaccine or the recommended number of doses for their age can also get the vaccine for free.
  • The vaccine is also provided free to children and adults at high risk of hepatitis B infection.

Click here for a complete list of vaccine recommendations and eligibility criteria.

Anyone who is not eligible for a free hepatitis B vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.