Can Hepatitis B be transmitted in urine?

06 December 2009

Question

Can Hepatitis B be transferred in urine?

Answer

We put this to consultant hepatologist Graeme Alexander, from Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge...

Graeme - When I meet patients in the clinic, I get two types of question. One, from a patient who's scared that they'll transmit hepatitis B to someone they love, and then the other, from the person that they love, wondering if they'll catch it from their partner.

And the answer is, that you can't catch hepatitis B from urine. These viruses are actually quite difficult to catch, both hepatitis B (and another blood-borne virus called hepatitis C).

Hepatitis B is acquired largely by contact with blood or through sex, and hepatitis C pretty well only by contact through blood.

So, you can live with someone for many, many years and not catch hepatitis B or C from them because close contact in the family situation is entirely safe.

Chris - And I think the other mitigation is that there is a good vaccine for hep-B, isn't there? So if we identify people in a family situation who have one carrier and one person who isn't infected, we can vaccinate the uninfected person to protect them.

Graeme - It's probably the most effective vaccine that we've ever come across, very effective. And very safe once you've been vaccinated.

Comments

I had a colleague who was Hepatitis B positive; he got a cut on his finger from a knife which we use in our work. Two days later, I also got a cut from that knife. Now I am worried that I might be infected. The knife we keep in our vehicle and the inside temperature of the vehicle in the afternoon may have been more than 50C, so do you think that viruses could have been alive at that temperature?

Hepatitis B virus will not remain viable outside the body for extended periods, and heat, dry air and sunlight will all contribute to deactivating the agent. However, the risk is not zero, and if you have had a significant exposure by cutting yourself then you may have contracted the agent. If this has only just happened then it might be possibly to protect you with a course of vaccine and immunoglobulin. If this injury occurred some time in the past (such as several months ago), a follow up blood test to make sure that you have not been infected would be sensible. In either case, the best thing to do would be to seek medical advice from your own GP anyway.

Just found out had positive reading what do I do

You need to arrange follow up to establish the stage of the infection (acute or chronic) and then the genotype because these dictate future management.

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