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What Increases Your Risk

People who have certain behaviors or certain jobs are at high risk for becoming infected with hepatitis B.

Job risk factors include:

  • Handling blood or body fluids as a routine part of your job. This includes health care workers, such as doctors, dentists, nurses, and blood and lab technicians, and students in these jobs. It also includes morticians and embalmers.
  • Being an employee or resident of an institution for people who have developmental disabilities.
  • Being an employee or inmate of a prison.

Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Being born in, or spending more than 6 months in, parts of the world where hepatitis B is common or where a large number of people have been infected for a long time. Such areas include Southeast and Central Asia, the islands of the South Pacific, the Amazon River basin, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and China.
  • Being a man who has sex with men.
  • Being sexually active. This includes having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with the virus or whose sexual history is unknown to you.
  • Having more than one sex partner. (Your risk is higher if you have another sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia.)
  • Living with someone who has a chronic hepatitis B infection.
  • Getting body piercings or tattoos from someone who doesn't sterilize his or her equipment.
  • Sharing needles or other equipment (such as cotton, spoons, and water) to inject illegal drugs.

Other factors include:

  • Being born to a woman who is infected with hepatitis B (if the newborn doesn't promptly receive the hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin). But breast-feeding doesn't spread the virus to a child.
  • Having a blood-clotting disorder, such as hemophilia, that requires you to receive clotting factors from human donors.
  • Having severe kidney disease that requires you to have your blood filtered through a machine (hemodialysis).
  • Being bitten by a person who has the virus.
Hepatitis B and C: Should I Be Tested?

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 29, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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