Hepatitis B (HBV) testing

Sample type needed

Blood

Incubation period 

28 days (or 10 days with Early Detection tests)

Who is this test suitable for?

Men and women with symptoms or concerns about HBV.

Results time 

Within 3 days of receipt in the lab

Treatment

Medications can suppress the virus in chronic cases (see below)

Where can I get tested?

All Better2Know centres

What is a Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) which affects the liver. It can cause both acute and chronic infections, meaning that different patients may have different symptoms, some more serious than others. In most cases, the virus is present for a few months and then the infected person's body is able to clear the virus. Some people will not be able to clear the virus.  For these patients the infection will progress to become chronic.

A chronic Hepatitis B infection is one that lasts more than six months and can have symptoms which come and go. Some people with the chronic Hepatitis B infection can develop cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure and these conditions if let untreated can lead to death.

HBV can be transmitted through blood and body fluids such as semen and vaginal fluids, so it can be caught through any sexual activity. The virus may also be present in other bodily fluids such as saliva and breast milk. HBV can also be spread through accidental injury by a contaminated needle, through tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture, needle stick injuries to healthcare workers, or the sharing of razors. 

It is so infectious that only a tiny amount of blood is needed to transmit the virus.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Most people do not have symptoms and will not know they have the virus. This is why it is important to get tested regularly as the virus can be passed on to others without the infected person knowing they have it. If symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, aches and pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Some people may experience more severe symptoms including:

  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools
Did you know? …

About two billion people worldwide have been infected with Hepatitis B since its discovery.

How do I get a test for Hepatitis B?

You can have a Hepatitis B test at Better2Know either on its own or as part of a package. If you are worried about other infections including Hepatitis B, we have a range of screens available. Our Platinum Screen can detect for up to 11 STIs and our Early Detection Screen tests for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV as early as 10 days after exposure. A blood sample is required and the same sample can also be used for other STD tests you may want. Results for your Hepatitis B test are availablewithin 5 days of the sample being received in the laboratory.

What happens if I do not have treatment?

If left undetected and untreated Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) can weaken the immune system. If your immune system is not functioning properly you are more susceptible of contracting other infections such as HIV and other STDs. HBV infection can also cause chronic inflammation of the liver and may lead to liver cancer and failure. If you are pregnant, there is a risk of transmission to your baby. Be sure to get tested regularly for Hepatitis B and if you are planning a family, get yourself and your partner tested before you try to become pregnant.

What treatments are there?

If the infection is chronic, you may need to take medication to reduce the risk of permanent liver damage and liver cancer. Effective medications are now available that can suppress the virus for many years, slowing down the damage done on the liver, allowing it to repair itself. You will still need to be monitored regularly.

Other treatment options include antiviral drugs, and regular injections which help to boost the immune system to fight the infection. The response is variable, and some people who initially get better get worse again when the treatment is stopped. Other people find that the side effects mean that they cannot continue with treatment. The the virus may also become resistant to the drugs.