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Date of preparation: March 2018

Is hepatitis B easily transmitted?

Children and adults can get the disease by coming into contact with the blood or bodily fluid of an infected person, including: 1-3

  1. Birth (spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth)
  2. Sex with an infected partner
  3. Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
  4. Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
  5. Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
  6. Exposure to blood from needle sticks or other sharp instruments

How long is the incubation period for hepatitis B?

The incubation period varies, usually between 30 and 180 days 4and a person may be contagious from the early stages of the incubation period. 4

HBV can survive outside of the body for at least 7 days and, during that time, can still cause infection if it enters the body of an uninfected person. 14

How common is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases for which travellers are at risk. 5Globally there are approximately 2 billion people infected with hepatitis B6

It is estimated that more than 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B. 1 More than 780,000 people die every year due to the acute or chronic consequences of hepatitis B. 1

Many travellers to highly endemic countries are at risk of acquiring hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. 7

The monthly incidence of HBV acquisition in long-term travellers to endemic countries ranges from 25–420 per 100,000. A study of short-term travellers from Australia to Asia analysing paired pre-travel and post-travel sera showed a much lower incidence of 2.19 new hepatitis B infections per 10,000 travel days. This is in agreement with a recent study of Danish travellers where the monthly incidence of HBV was estimated to be 10.2 per 100,000. 8


  1. WHO. Hepatitis B fact sheet. 2015. Available at: Last accessed June 2015.
  2. CDC. Hepatitis B FAQs for the Public — Transmission. Available at: Last accessed: June 2015.
  3. WHO. Hepatitis B Q&A. Available at: Last accessed June 2015.
  4. WHO. Global Alert and Response (GAR): Hepatitis B index 3. Available at: Last accessed June 2015.
  5. Van Damme P, Chlibek R, Keeffe EB. Hepatitis A and B Vaccination in Elderly Travellers. Eur Gastroenterol Hepatol Rev 2011;7:2–10.
  6. WHO. Global Alert and Response (GAR), World Hepatitis Day 2012. Available at: Last accessed June 2015..
  7. Johnson DF, Ratnam I, Matchett E, et al. The incidence of HBV and HCV infection in Australian travelers to Asia. J Travel Med 2013;20:203–205.
  8. Walker PF. Pre-travel consultation and hepatitis B: a double opportunity for preventing infection in at-risk patients and life-threatening complications in HBV carriers. J Travel Med 2013;20:143–145.

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