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Hepatitis B (HBV)

Last updated: November 12, 2018

What Does Hepatitis B (HBV) Mean?

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a type of viral pathogen that affects the liver and can cause both acute and chronic diseases.

It is transmitted through contact with infected blood or fluids, but it can be prevented through an available vaccine. HBV is considered a major occupational hazard for health workers.

Safeopedia Explains Hepatitis B (HBV)

OSHA’s standard for bloodborne pathogens requires employers to offer the HBV vaccine free of charge to all employees who may have occupational exposure to HBV. In addition to the blood pathogen standards associated with HBV, occupational exposure is limited through a variety of standards that differ depending on the risks associated with a worker’s particular tasks. For instance, the use of sharps containers to safely dispose of used needles may be mandated.

Ten percent of people who develop Hepatitis B become chronic carriers of the disease. Their blood can remain infected for a matter of months or for the rest of their lives. Approximately 30 percent of carriers experience continuous liver disease, which can cause the development of cirrhosis and liver cancer.

There is no way to cure carriers. An individual’s risk of becoming a carrier after an infection is higher as a child (90-95 percent of infections) than as an adult (3-10 percent of infections). Both HBV and the diseases that it can cause (e.g. liver cancer) are considered occupational diseases by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), the occupations at the highest risk for HBV are pathologists, biochemistry and hematology laboratory personnel, and dialysis staff. The second highest at-risk group includes nurses, laboratory personnel (other than those previously mentioned), and dentists. More than 20 percent of personnel in the former group will have an HBV infection at some point in their lives, and between seven and 20 percent of the latter group will. Overall, the CCOHS estimates that the incidence of occupational HBV has declined 95 percent since the introduction of the HBV vaccine in 1982.


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