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Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids. This can occur through:

  • direct blood-to-blood contact
  • unprotected sex
  • unsterile needles
  • from an infected woman to her newborn during the delivery process.

Other possible routes of infection include sharing sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes or earrings.  Body piercing, tattooing and acupuncture are also possible routes of infection unless sterile needles are used

Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted casually. It cannot be spread through sneezing, coughing, hugging or eating food prepared by someone who is infected with hepatitis B. Everyone is at some risk for a hepatitis B infection, but some groups are at higher risk because of their occupation or life choices.

High Risk Groups

  • Health care workers and emergency personnel
  • Infants born to mothers who are infected at the time of delivery
  • Partners or individuals living in close household contact with an infected person
  • Individuals with multiple sex partners, past or present
  • Individuals who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease
  • Illicit drug users (injecting, inhaling, snorting, popping pills)
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Individuals who received a blood transfusion prior to 1992
  • Individuals who get tattoos or body piercing
  • Individuals who travel to countries where hepatitis B is common (Asia, Africa, South America, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East)
  • Individuals emigrating from countries where hepatitis B is common, or born to parents who emigrated from these countries (see above)
  • Families adopting children from countries where hepatitis B is common (see above)
  • Individuals with early kidney disease or undergoing kidney dialysis
  • Individuals who use blood products for medical conditions (i.e.hemophilia)
  • Residents and staff of correctional facilities and group homes


Page last reviewed February 2014

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