Hepatitis B carriers are people who have hepatitis B but who show no symptoms of the infection. Carriers can take certain precautions to prevent transmission to other people.

Often, hepatitis B carriers have low viral loads, which means that they do not have much of the virus in their body. They may also have antibodies, which fight the infection.

Some older studies indicate that the condition is generally benign, but a person who is a hepatitis B carrier may have a recurrence of the infection later in life. They can also transmit the infection to others.

Read on to learn more about what it means to be a hepatitis B carrier, how the infection affects people, and ways to prevent transmission.

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In simple terms, a person with any amount of hepatitis B in their blood is a carrier. This has several implications, including that they may:


People classified as hepatitis B carriers typically have ongoing hepatitis B infections but show no symptoms.

Worldwide, about 240–350 million people live with chronic hepatitis B. Within the United States, about 0.1%–0.5% of the population has the infection.

Who is likely to be a hepatitis B carrier?

People living with chronic hepatitis B can be carriers. Often, carriers do not have symptoms. This means that they may unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

However, within the U.S., there is a low rate of hepatitis B infections, which means that there is a small number of carriers. To prevent transmission, people can receive the hepatitis B vaccine.

A person living with chronic hepatitis B who is an asymptomatic carrier can still spread the virus to others.

The most common ways to transmit the infection include:

  • having genital contact with others
  • sharing needles
  • being born of a person with the infection
  • coming into contact with infected bodily fluids
  • sharing personal hygiene products, such as razors and toothbrushes
  • sustaining accidental needle sticks

Hepatitis B carriers often do not have any symptoms. However, like with shingles, these people may develop a resurgence of the virus later in life. This can cause health complications.

Living with chronic hepatitis B can cause complications including:

People with chronic hepatitis B usually do not have symptoms from the virus itself. When they do have symptoms, they often result from a complication.

A person who may be a carrier, who has an acute hepatitis B infection, or who is living with a known chronic infection can take steps to help prevent transmitting the virus to others.

If someone is living with or is in a relationship with someone who has hepatitis B, they should consider getting vaccinated. A vaccine provides immunity and means that they will not contract the virus.

However, not all people can get the hepatitis B vaccine. Other steps a person can take to help prevent transmission include:

  • avoiding sharing needles with others
  • using only sterilized tattoo and piercing tools
  • covering any open wounds
  • wearing a barrier method of protection during sex
  • not sharing personal items

If a person receives a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis B, they can live a relatively normal and healthy life. Taking the right precautions can help them avoid transmitting the virus.

For example, they should monitor their viral load with regular blood tests. This will ensure that they can get prompt treatment if the virus starts to resurge.

Letting the virus go unchecked can be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, about 1,649 death certificates listed hepatitis B as a complication. The CDC also notes that this number may be underestimated.

People with chronic hepatitis B may develop serious complications if the virus reemerges. Getting regular checkups can help prevent this.

Not all cases of chronic hepatitis B require treatment. A doctor may only prescribe antiviral medications if the virus is damaging the person’s liver.

The length of treatment varies. A person may take oral medications or receive antiviral injections.

If the hepatitis B infection has caused complications, such as liver damage, a doctor will recommend treatment.

In order to diagnose hepatitis B, a doctor will need to order a blood test. They will then check the blood for different antibodies and the hepatitis B virus.

If a blood test confirms that a person has hepatitis B, a doctor may order additional tests to check for complications. These can include a liver ultrasound, which allows them to see any scarring on the liver, and a liver biopsy, in which a healthcare professional removes and tests a small portion of the liver.

A person should contact a doctor if they think that they may have had exposure to hepatitis B. The doctor can run a blood test to look for the presence of the infection and determine the next steps.

People who are concerned about contracting the virus may want to ask a doctor about getting the hepatitis B vaccine. This will protect them from future infections.

People who are living with a known case of chronic hepatitis B should visit a doctor regularly for screenings and blood tests to monitor the virus.

Hepatitis B carriers are people living with asymptomatic chronic hepatitis B. Although they do not experience any symptoms, they can still pass the infection to others. They are also at risk of developing complications, such as liver damage.

If a person is a hepatitis B carrier, they should visit a doctor for regular screenings.