Hepatitis B: guidance, data and analysis

The characteristics, diagnosis, management and epidemiology of hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a viral infection carried in the blood causing inflammation of the liver and potentially long term damage. The virus is transmitted by contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable.

The average incubation period for hepatitis B is 40 to 160 days. Some people experience flu-like symptoms including sore throat, tiredness, joint pains and nausea. Acute infection can be severe and cause abdominal discomfort and jaundice. There is also a liver-damaging chronic state of hepatitis B that is infectious and may be asymptomatic (without symptoms). Some people with hepatitis B go on to develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Acute infectious hepatitis is a notifiable disease in England and Wales.

See NHS.UK for more information about hepatitis B.

Diagnosis and management


Pre and post exposure vaccination recommendations and details of UK routine and selective immunisation programmes are in the Immunisation against infectious disease ‘The Green Book’. Post exposure prophylaxis guidance for hepatitis B are adapted from the PHLS Hepatitis Sub-Committee guidance on post exposure prophylaxis.

Infants born to hepatitis B infected mothers

All pregnant women should be offered and recommended screening for hepatitis B in every pregnancy as part of the NHS Infectious Diseases in Pregnancy Screening (IDPS) programme.

The service specifications for the IDPS programme (no 15) and neonatal hepatitis B immunisation programme are located on the NHS website.

The hepatitis B infant universal and selective immunisation programme is set out in the Green Book chapter 18 on hepatitis B and summarised in the routine childhood immunisation schedule.

Resources including guidance, leaflets and educational materials are available to support professionals in the delivery of the hepatitis B screening and immunisation pathways. A leaflet containing links to all the resources is available free to order or download.

Data collection


For most recent published data on hepatitis B in England, see ‘Acute Hepatitis B (England): annual reports’ below.

Data from the sentinel surveillance of blood-borne virus testing (including hepatitis B) are available.

Historic data on acute hepatitis B and sentinel surveillance of hepatitis (and other blood-borne virus testing) are available.

Updates to this page

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 2 February 2023 + show all updates
  1. Added 'Hepatitis B in England' under Epidemiology.

  2. Added order link for the hepatitis B screening and immunisation pathways resources leaflet.

  3. Added Enhanced surveillance of childhood cases of hepatitis B and C in England.

  4. Added 'Sentinel surveillance of blood borne virus testing in England 2019'

  5. Added links to new antenatal screening guide and routine childhood immunisation schedule.

  6. Added 'Acute hepatitis B (England) enhanced surveillance reports' under Epidemiology.

  7. Added: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) regional reports.

  8. Added hexavalent combination vaccine programme guidance.

  9. Added new hepatitis B pathway resource leaflet.

  10. Added the hepatitis B leaflet and aide memoire.

  11. Added Hepatitis B vaccine advice for dental professionals.

  12. Added 'Hepatitis B vaccine recommendations during supply constraints'.

  13. Added a guide to the national enhanced surveillance of acute hepatitis B, and an additional enhanced surveillance questionnaire for newly diagnosed cases.

  14. First published.