Most people who get hepatitis B infection as babies or children don't look or feel sick at all. Similarly, almost half of adults who get infected don't have any symptoms or signs of the disease. If people do have signs or symptoms, they may experience any or all of the following:
Many people don't know when or how they acquired the infection. When they get the blood test results indicating they've been infected with hepatitis B, they are taken by surprise. Studies have demonstrated that 30% to 40% of people who acquire hepatitis B infection are unable to identify any risk factors explaining why they have the disease.
Nearly 95% of adults recover after several months. They clear the infection from their bodies and become immune. This means they won't get infected with hepatitis B again. They are no longer contagious and cannot pass hepatitis B on to others.
Unfortunately, of those who become newly infected with hepatitis B virus, about 5% of adults and up to 90% of children under age 5 are unable to clear the infection from their bodies. They become chronically infected and can pass the virus to others.
The only way to know if you are currently infected with hepatitis B, have recovered, are chronically infected, or are susceptible, is by having blood tests. The three standard blood tests are the following:
If the blood bank told you your test was "positive," it is important to find out which test was positive. If the "HBsAg" was positive, this means that you are either chronically infected with hepatitis B or were recently infected. If only the "anti-HBc" was positive, it is most likely that you either had a "false-positive" test or are immune to hepatitis B. It is important that you understand the full meaning of your test results. If you are not sure how to interpret these test results, call your blood bank for an explanation or have the blood bank send the test results to your physician. You may need to provide written permission for the blood bank to release these results to your physician. Your physician may want to repeat the blood tests or perform additional tests such as an "anti-HBs." Bring this information sheet along with you to your doctor visit. And remember, you cannot contract hepatitis B from donating blood, because the equipment used during blood donation is sterile.