For 30 percent of the people infected with hepatitis B, there are no symptoms, but a health care provider discovers the disease through a blood test, according to WebMD. For other sufferers, symptoms appear one to six months after exposure and include jaundice, fever, unexplained fatigue and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Hepatitis B begins as an acute viral infection. Many who suffer the acute viral infection get better in a few weeks; however, in others, the acute infection becomes a chronic infection. In individuals with the chronic form of hepatitis B, the disease lasts a lifetime. According to the CDC, infants under age 1, who have the acute viral infection, have a 90 percent chance of developing chronic hepatitis. By the time the child reaches age 5, the chance of developing the chronic form of the disease drops to 6 to 10 percent. Infected mothers pass hepatitis to a child through the birthing process. Adults contact hepatitis B through blood contact, sharing personal items or needles, and sex with an infected partner. Health care workers are at risk due to contact with medical sharps.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that an individual with a known exposure to hepatitis B contact his medical care provider immediately. Immunizations are available that prevent the viral disease from developing, but the person must receive the shot within 24 hours of the initial exposure.