Hong Kong Medical & Gastrointestinal Centre
Hepatitis B

Prevalence of hepatitis B infection

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection occurs throughout the world. It is estimated that more than 2 billion people have been infected, of which more than 350 million have chronic life-long hepatitis B infection. In Southeast Asia including Hong Kong, the overall prevalence of chronic hepatitis B infection is high (>8%). Carriers of HBV are at increased risk of developing cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Some of them are high-risk groups for HCC.high-risk groups for HCC.

High-risk groups for HCC, including:
  • Asian men over 40 years of age
  • Asian women over 50 years of age
  • Persons with cirrhosis
  • Persons with a family history of HCC
  • Carriers with persistent or intermittent alanine aminotransferase (ALT) elevation
  • Carriers with persistent or intermittent high HBV DNA level
  • Persons with heavy alcohol consumption
  • Smokers

About 5-10% of infected adults and 70-90% of infected infants are not able to clear the virus, therefore becoming chronic carriers and serving as a source of infection to others.

Transmission of HBV

HBV is transmitted through:
  1. Perinatal transmission from infected mother to baby
  2. Blood or body fluids contact of an infected person
  3. Unprotected sexual contact with a carrier
Casual contacts, such as, shaking hands and eating at the same table do not cause hepatitis B infection.

Symptoms of hepatitis B infection

If symptoms occur, they might include:
  • Mild fever
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Dark urine
Prevention of hepatitis B infection
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis B
  • Handle an open wound carefully; make sure it is properly bandaged
  • Do not share personal care items, e.g. razors, toothbrushes and needles
  • Practice safer sex and use condoms properly