When a person contracts a virus, there can be a period of time before it will show up on a test or before signs and symptoms appear. Experts call this the incubation period. Hepatitis B symptoms can take 60–150 days to develop, and a test can detect the virus after 1–9 weeks following exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average time it takes for symptoms to appear is 90 days, and tests can detect the virus after an average of 4 weeks.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes inflammation in the liver. It can be acute or chronic.

HBV transmission occurs through bodily fluids.

When someone who has not gotten the vaccination for hepatitis B comes into contact with HBV, it will take a while before they experience symptoms or signs of the infection.

This article discusses the incubation period for hepatitis B and how transmission of the virus occurs.

A doctor explaining the incubation period of hepatitis B to a person.Share on Pinterest
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Not everyone who develops hepatitis B will have symptoms. However, according to the CDC, if symptoms do appear, they can begin an average of 90 days, or 3 months, after a person contracts the virus.

Although 3 months is the average, symptoms can start any time between 2 and 5 months after exposure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the incubation period is between 30 days and 6 months.

A doctor will generally order several tests to check for HBV and its antigens. The presence of a surface antigen called HBs-AG in a person’s blood indicates a new, current infection.

A test can detect this 1–9 weeks after a person has come into contact with the virus. The average detection occurs around 4 weeks after exposure.

The WHO states that it can take 30–60 days for a test to detect the virus.

The CDC states that in half of cases where symptoms develop, the virus will no longer be able to be passed to others within 7 weeks after the onset of symptoms.

An individual who does not develop chronic hepatitis B will test negative for HBsAG 15 weeks after the symptoms begin.

In people who develop chronic hepatitis B, the virus will still be able to be transmitted to others.


How long can the virus be passed to others if a person has no symptoms?


That is the danger of hepatitis B. A person can have no symptoms, and the virus can still be transmitted to others. Since there are no symptoms, there is no way to know the disease is spreading.

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, RN, CNE, COIAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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How is the virus transmitted?

Generally, the virus will not spread through casual contact with a person who has hepatitis B. The virus spreads when infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluid enters the body of someone who does not have the virus.

This normally occurs via:

  • childbirth
  • sexual activity
  • needle or syringe sharing
  • contact with open sores or wounds of a person with the virus
  • sharing items such as toothbrushes or razors
  • accidental needlestick injury

The virus can live on surfaces for at least 7 days.

Many people with hepatitis B may not realize they have it, because they may not have any symptoms.

The severity and duration of the symptoms can vary in those who experience no symptoms. They will also vary between acute hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis B infections.

Common symptoms of acute hepatitis B include:

Acute hepatitis B symptoms typically last several weeks, but some people may experience symptoms for as long as 6 months.

Generally, chronic hepatitis B does not cause people to have symptoms. However, in some cases, it can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

If an individual thinks that they have come into contact with hepatitis B, they should get a test, even if symptoms are not present.

To get tested, a person can visit a doctor’s office, a community health clinic, or a local planned parenthood health center.

There is no cure for hepatitis B. However, according to Planned Parenthood, the infection usually resolves without treatment in 1–2 months.

If symptoms are present, a person should ensure that they rest and get adequate nutrition and drink plenty of fluids. If symptoms are more severe, the person may require a visit to the hospital.

Planned Parenthood states that approximately 1 in 20 adults develop chronic hepatitis B. Some people with chronic hepatitis B will receive treatment, but not everyone will require treatment.

No treatment cures chronic hepatitis, so a person may need treatment indefinitely. Treatments generally include antiviral medication.

In people with cirrhosis or liver cancer related to hepatitis B, a doctor may consider a liver transplant.

If a person receives a chronic hepatitis B diagnosis, they should:

They should also check with a healthcare professional before taking any medications or supplements, to ensure that they will not damage the liver.

Anyone who suspects that they have come into contact with HBV should consult a doctor as soon as possible.

A doctor can provide postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) through the vaccines and a drug called hepatitis B immune globulin. PEP can prevent infection and liver damage.

A person should also contact a doctor if they notice any of the symptoms of hepatitis B or if they know they have hepatitis B, and their symptoms worsen.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that impacts the liver.

The CDC states that the time between exposure to HBV and developing symptoms varies, but the average incubation period for hepatitis is about 90 days. HBV can be passed to others even if a person with the virus has no symptoms.

A test can detect the virus after 1–9 weeks following exposure.

Anyone who has come into contact with hepatitis B should seek guidance from a doctor as soon as possible.