Is There A Cure For Hepatitis B?

There are 5 different types of hepatitis, and hepatitis B is one of the most common, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2018, there were approximately 862,000 people living with hepatitis B in the U.S., and about 23,000 new cases. It can be dangerous and seriously affect the liver — but is there a cure?

Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood and semen (via the World Health Organization). It is an inflammation of the liver that can cause fever, fatigue, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice (via the CDC). It can be spread by sharing contaminated equipment like syringes or blood glucose monitors, through sexual intercourse, or from infected mothers to infants in childbirth. Since roughly 2 out of 3 people with hepatitis B don't know they have it, it can be spread very easily without knowing it. Asian-Americans are disproportionately affected by hepatitis B — half of all people with the infection in the U.S. are Asian.

Why it's important to prevent hepatitis B

There are different ways that the hepatitis B infection can affect the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Acute infection lasts less than 6 months and is more common in adults, as your immune system fights off the infection more effectively. The younger you are, however, the more serious the infection can be. When your immune system can't fight off the infection, you develop chronic infection, lasting more than 6 months. Chronic infection can be serious — it can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and even liver cancer, especially if it goes undetected for a long time.

While there isn't a cure for hepatitis B, there's an effective vaccine that can prevent it (via the Hepatitis B Foundation). It's recommended for all babies at birth and for children up to 18 years, as well as for adults who are at high risk of infection. This is important, as more than 90% of infants who aren't immunized and develop hepatitis B end up with a chronic infection, and chronic infection leads to serious liver disease (via CDC). The vaccine is safe and recommended by both the World Health Organization and the CDC. Since hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer and there is no cure, prevention is key.