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Acute vs. Chronic Hepatitis B

When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, this is called an "acute infection". A person may not have any symptoms or s/he could become seriously ill. Most adults will recover and get rid of the virus without any problems. If the virus remains in the blood for more than six months, then a person is diagnosed as having a "chronic infection".

Fortunately, most healthy adults (90%) who are infected with the hepatitis B virus will recover and develop protective antibodies against future hepatitis B infections.

Unfortunately, this is not true for infants and young children — 90% of infants and up to 50% of young children infected with hepatitis B will not get rid of the virus and will develop a chronic infection. A smaller number of infected adults (5-10%) will also become chronically infected with hepatitis B.
A simple blood test can diagnose a hepatitis B infection. Repeated blood tests may be ordered over a six-month period to make an accurate diagnosis.


Page last reviewed February 2014

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