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By: RSC Editorial Team

April 2, 2023

How Long Can Hepatitis B Survive Outside the Body?

 

Hepatitis B is a liver infection that, in severe cases, can lead to liver damage, liver failure, and even death. Globally, Hepatitis B affects approximately 296 million people and contributes to an estimated 820,000 deaths per year.

How long can Hepatitis B survive outside the body? Hepatitis B can live in the air and on surfaces for up to seven days, which means people can get infected if they come into contact with the virus during that time.

There is no cure for Hepatitis B. Most healthy adults can recover from Hepatitis B on their own, but for infants and children, Hepatitis B can turn into a lifelong illness that greatly affects their quality of life.

This guide from Rapid STD Testing will help you understand Hepatitis B, including how people get it and ways to prevent this potentially debilitating infection from spreading.

Understanding Hepatitis B

Hepatitis A, B, and C are caused by viral infections. All three affect the liver, but what makes them different is the way they spread.

Hepatitis A is transmitted through stool. If an infected person prepares food without washing their hands after using the restroom and someone eats it, that person could get Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A can live outside the body for several months.

Can Hepatitis B survive in dried blood, and how is it transmitted? Hepatitis B can survive in both fresh and dried blood. If a non-immune person touches infected blood or bodily fluids, they can get Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can also spread from infected mothers to their babies. Infected people can spread Hepatitis B to others by sharing needles or having sex without a condom.

Hepatitis C is also found in bodily fluids and blood. The Hepatitis C virus can live for up to six weeks outside the body. Infected people can transmit it to others in the same way as Hepatitis B. However, unlike Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C is rarely transmitted through sex. Still, it’s important to use condoms when having sex with an infected person to minimize the chance of transmission.

Hepatitis B symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Pale or clay-colored bowel movements
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Hives

Acute vs. Chronic Hepatitis B

Acute Hepatitis B symptoms show up within six months after exposure to the virus. Infected people can recover from Hepatitis B, but sometimes, symptoms are severe enough to require hospitalization.

Can someone have Hepatitis B and not know it? Some people don’t display any symptoms, so they may not know they’re infected. If you’re worried that you have Hepatitis B, consider a 10-panel STD test from Rapid STD Testing.

Acute Hepatitis B can turn into a lifelong illness called chronic Hepatitis B. Symptoms are more severe and may include liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and death.

Exposure to the Hepatitis B Virus

If you live, work, or interact with someone who has Hepatitis B, you might wonder, “How long can Hepatitis B survive outside the body?” or “How long does HBV live on surfaces?”

Hepatitis B can live outside the body for up to seven days. If you come into contact with the virus and haven’t been vaccinated, you’re at risk of Hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis B can survive on dried blood found on shared household items, such as:

  • Nail clippers
  • Razors
  • Toothbrushes
  • Kitchen knives
  • Earrings or other sharp jewelry

Hepatitis B can spread in healthcare environments, such as hospitals and urgent care clinics where proper sanitation of medical equipment isn’t practiced. For example, if the facility doesn’t sanitize surgical equipment or accidentally reuses a syringe, it could cause an outbreak of Hepatitis B.

Thankfully, U.S. healthcare facilities are held to high sanitation standards, so most facilities take care to properly clean medical equipment between each use. If you receive care in an area with more lax sanitation standards, you have a higher chance of contracting Hepatitis B.

You aren’t likely to catch Hepatitis B in most work environments. However, if you work in an environment where injuries can occur, infection is possible. For instance, if an employee cuts themselves while working at a construction site, you might contract Hepatitis B if you come into contact with their blood.

The only way to find out for sure is to get a rapid STD test.

Hepatitis B is unlikely to spread through saliva. It can’t be transmitted via:

  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Casual contact
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Breastfeeding
  • Shared eating utensils
  • Food or water

If you’re concerned about STDs living on clothing, rest assured you can’t catch Hepatitis B this way unless you come into contact with infected blood on the clothing.

Can you get Hepatitis B more than once? If you’ve had Hepatitis B before, you can’t get it again.

If you are exposed to the blood of a person with Hepatitis B and are unvaccinated or don’t know your vaccination status, you may be able to prevent infection with postexposure prophylaxis. Starting the Hepatitis B vaccine series within 24 to 48 hours gives you the highest chance of preventing infection.

Doctors may also give you a drug called Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) for more protection. Most healthcare facilities don’t carry HBIG, however, so you may need to contact your local Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator or health department to find an office that stocks the drug. 

High-risk Groups

Certain groups have a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis B than others. People who work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other places that provide health care are among the highest-risk groups. Psychiatric care workers who regularly encounter aggressive patients may also come into contact with Hepatitis B. If you’re a health professional, you should get vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Certain groups of sexually active adults should also get vaccinated against Hepatitis B. These include:

  • Men who have sex with other men 
  • Sex partners of people who have Hepatitis B
  • People seeking treatment for or evaluation of an STD
  • People who have had more than one sexual partner in the past six months

Those with diabetes are at higher risk of catching Hepatitis B because they frequently come into contact with blood. In diabetic people, transmission can occur through:

  • Sharing insulin pens or syringes with other people
  • Using the same blood glucose meter for multiple people without sanitation between uses
  • Failing to sterilize podiatry equipment between uses

Outside of the U.S., certain countries have a very high prevalence of Hepatitis B. People born in other countries account for 70% of Hepatitis B infections in the U.S. You’re at higher risk if you were born in:

  • Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • East or Southeast Asian countries (except Japan)
  • Countries of the Pacific Islands

People who use injectable street drugs, such as opioids, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, are at high risk of contracting Hepatitis B. Many people who use these drugs share the same needles, which is one of the biggest factors in transmitting Hepatitis B.

Homeless people are more at risk of contracting Hepatitis A than Hepatitis B. That’s because Hepatitis B spreads through blood while Hepatitis A is transmitted through poor sanitation and contaminated food and water. Still, people who reside in a homeless shelter where there could be a high prevalence of Hepatitis B should consider getting vaccinated against the virus.

Occupational Risk Hazards

Occupational groups with a higher risk of Hepatitis B include:

  • Dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants
  • Institutions where employees are exposed to aggressive, biting residents
  • Healthcare workers who are routinely exposed to blood 
  • Employees at institutions for the developmentally disabled
  • Embalmers, lab personnel, and pathologists

Prevention of Hepatitis B

The best way to prevent infection is by receiving the vaccine for Hepatitis B. It’s also possible to prevent the transmission of Hepatitis B by:

  • Avoiding direct contact with body fluids and blood
  • Covering wounds with bandages
  • Using condoms with sexual partners
  • Washing hands thoroughly with hot water and soap after exposure to blood 
  • Not sharing nail clippers, razors, toothbrushes, and other sharp objects with others
  • Using new, sterile needles for tattoos, piercings, and acupuncture
  • Avoiding illegal street drugs
  • Discarding feminine hygiene products in plastic bags

If you encounter fresh or dried blood, it’s important to clean and disinfect the area immediately. You can sanitize blood spills with a diluted bleach solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Disinfectant spray and wipes will also kill the Hepatitis B virus.

However, if you find blood while at work, don’t clean the spill unless you are permitted to do so by your employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) forbids employers from asking you to clean blood and other bodily fluids without proper training and equipment. Until trained personnel arrive to clean the spill, block off the area to prevent other employees and customers from coming into contact with the blood.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the Hepatitis B vaccine for:

  • Infants
  • Children younger than 19 years
  • Adults aged 19 through 59 years
  • Adults 60 and up with risk factors for Hepatitis B

You should not receive the Hepatitis B vaccine if you’ve had an allergic reaction to:

  • Yeast
  • Neomycin
  • A previous Hepatitis B vaccine in the series

Pregnant women should also not receive the HEPLISAV-B vaccination. HEPLISAV-B is a newer vaccine that provides Hepatitis B protection with two doses in one month. Because the CDC doesn’t yet know whether this vaccine is safe for pregnant women, they shouldn’t get it until adequate safety data are available.

Order Hepatitis B Testing From the Comfort of Home

Now that we’ve answered the question, “How long can Hepatitis B survive outside the body?” you may be concerned that you’ve come into contact with Hepatitis B. If so, let Rapid STD Testing help you with our same-day STD testing service. We offer fast, confidential STD testing that you can order from the privacy of your own home. Order your Hepatitis B test online or contact us at (866) 872-1888 to find a lab near you.

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By: RSC Editorial Team
April 2, 2023

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