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

Infants born to hepatitis B infected mothers are at risk of perinatal transmission. The National policy recommends immunisation of infants (with vaccine +/- hepatitis B immunoglobulin) at birth, four weeks and at 12 months of age. In addition, hexavalent vaccine (Infanrix hexa) is given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age with a blood test carried out at 12 months to exclude infection.

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.

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 16 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. Added 'Acute hepatitis B (England) enhanced surveillance reports' under Epidemiology.

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

  3. Added hexavalent combination vaccine programme guidance.

  4. Added new hepatitis B pathway resource leaflet.

  5. Added the hepatitis B leaflet and aide memoire.

  6. Added Hepatitis B vaccine advice for dental professionals.

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

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

  9. First published.