Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. It is transmitted through blood‐to‐blood, or unprotected sexual contact. A pregnant woman with chronic hepatitis B can transmit the virus to her baby.
- Two billion people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B globally, and about 600 000 people die every year due to the consequences of hepatitis B. Despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, hepatitis B is the most common liver infection in the world. The hepatitis B virus is up to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
- In Australia, approximately 225,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis B, which is defined as having had the infection for longer than six months. However, nearly half of those living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia are undiagnosed. People with chronic hepatitis B may feel well even though liver damage is occurring. If not diagnosed and treated, chronic hepatitis B can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and liver failure.
- For those already living with chronic hepatitis B, ongoing treatment and monitoring helps provide protection against the development of liver disease and liver cancer. 5% of people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia are currently receiving potentially life‐saving treatment.
- People who were born in the Asia‐Pacific region, or Africa, have often not been vaccinated despite these regions having much higher population rates of hepatitis B and are therefore more vulnerable to infection.People in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also have a higher burden of chronic hepatitis B than the non‐indigenous population and this is coupled with much poorer health outcomes.
- Without access to appropriate healthcare, one in four adults who were infected early in life will later die due to complications of chronic hepatitis B.