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Hepatitis B is called a "silent infection" because most people do not have noticeable symptoms when they are first infected. When a healthy adult is infected with the hepatitis B virus, their body can respond in different ways. People who do not know they are infected can unknowingly pass the virus to others.

  • Hepatitis B causes no symptoms in about 69 percent of infected people.
  • Approximately 30 percent of infected individuals will have some symptoms. Many will think they just have the flu and ignore the symptoms.
  • About 1 percent of those infected will develop life-threatening "fulminant hepatitis". These people may go into liver failure and require immediate medical attention. Although this response is rare, fulminant hepatitis develops suddenly and can be fatal if left untreated.

Common symptoms of hepatitis B infection include:

  • Fever, fatigue, muscle or joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild nausea and vomiting

Serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention and maybe even hospitalization:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Yellow eyes and skin ("jaundice")
  • Bloated or swollen stomach 

It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you don't feel well or if you are uncertain about whether you have been infected with hepatitis B. A simple blood test can easily diagnose a hepatitis B infection.

Page last reviewed February 2014

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