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Immunizations: Hepatitis B Virus

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease. It is caused by an infection from the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The illness can be acute or chronic. That means it can either cause serious short-term health problems or could cause life-long illness that affects you for the rest of your life. Children with hepatitis B are much more likely to develop lifelong liver problems.

3D Model of Hepatitis B virus

A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B

The best way to prevent hepatitis B is to get the vaccine.

Learn more about the hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B 101

Hepatitis B spreads through bodily fluids (like blood, semen, or spit):

  • During sexual contact.
  • By sharing needles, syringes, or other ways of injecting drugs.
  • By sharing razors or toothbrushes.
  • By passing it to your baby at birth if you’re infected while pregnant.

Anyone can get hepatitis B. However, these people are at greater risk:

  • Anyone who has unprotected sex.
  • Health care workers.
  • People on dialysis.
  • People who inject drugs.
  • Others who handle needles often.

You could have hepatitis B and not know it. Many infected people don’t have any symptoms but still spread the disease to others. If a person does have symptoms, they may start between six weeks and six months after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms can include:

  • Having a fever.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Not feeling hungry.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Vomiting (throwing up).
  • Feeling stomach pain.
  • Having dark-colored urine (pee).
  • Having clay-colored bowel movements (poop).
  • Feeling joint pain.
  • Yellowing of the skin and white part of the eyes (jaundice).

A person who is infected with the virus for a long time may develop health problems. These problems could include liver damage, liver failure, cancer, or death.

The best way to prevent hepatitis B is to get vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends hepatitis B vaccines for:

  • Infants.
  • Children and teens who aren’t fully vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Adults who aren’t fully vaccinated against hepatitis B.

You need to get all shots in the series to be fully protected. Find out if you and your children are protected against hepatitis B. Check our Department of Health Services (DHS) Wisconsin Immunization Registry.

If you’re worried about cost, your family may be eligible for free vaccines. Read about our Vaccines For Children and Vaccines For Adults programs.

Just for health care providers

Hepatitis B is a communicable disease. Health care providers must report cases of hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a Wisconsin Disease Surveillance Category II disease.

Report a recognized case to the patient’s local public health department. Within 72 hours, submit a case report through one of the following:

Read more about required disease reporting in Wisconsin.

Case reporting and public health guidelines

Contact us

Stephanie Borchardt
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
Phone: 608-266-9923
Fax: 608-267-9493

Sarah Born
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
Phone: 608-266-8621

Last revised January 3, 2023