Hepatitis B guide

Hepatitis B risk factors

How do people get infected with hepatitis B?

Anyone can get hepatitis B...usually through sexual activity. The most common risk factors are:

  • A history of STDs, especially HIV
  • A history of unprotected sex
  • A new sexual partner
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Healthcare workers exposed to blood
  • Hemophiliacs (people affected by a hereditary bleeding disorder)
  • Intravenous (IV) drug use and sharing needles

People who are from – or travel to – China, southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are also at a higher risk for hepatitis B. If you have the virus, don't share needles, syringes, razorblades or toothbrushes. Use a latex condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex, and use a condom or dental dam if you have oral sex.

What are some ways that hepatitis B cannot be spread?

Hepatitis B cannot be passed through food, drinking from someone's water bottle, eating utensils, sneezing, kissing, holding hands or breastfeeding.

Want to learn more?

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."