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Hepatitis B, sometimes called hep B or HBV, is a virus that is carried in the blood which infects and damages the liver. A virus is a tiny particle that needs to infect and control the cells of your body in order to live and reproduce ('replicate'). Hepatitis B is very infectious - 100 times more infectious than HIV. However, there is a simple test to find out whether you have the virus and an effective vaccine is available to protect you from it.
Hepatitis B infection is the most widespread form of hepatitis. It is common in South-East Asia, the Middle and Far East, Southern Europe and Africa. The World Health Organisation estimates that one third of the world's population has been infected at some time and that there are approximately 350 million people who are infected long term. In Europe, there are estimated to be one million people infected every year.
In the UK, approximately one in 1,000 people are thought to have the virus. In some inner-city areas with a high percentage of people from parts of the world where the virus is common, as many as one in 50 pregnant women may be infected.
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is a major global health problem and the most serious type of viral hepatitis. It can cause chronic liver disease and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
Worldwide, an estimated two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and more than 350 million have chronic (long-term) liver infections.
A vaccine against hepatitis B infection has been available since 1982. Hepatitis B vaccine is 95% effective in preventing HBV infection and its chronic consequences, and is the first vaccine against a major human cancer.
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