The general run-of-the-mill safe-sex, be careful, and don’t share needles rules apply. The fact that people know what they should and shouldn’t do unfortunately does not always stop them from getting the disease.
A vaccine has been developed which gives people protection against hepatitis B. It is being given to people at particular risk, such as family members of carriers, babies whose mothers are carriers, health professionals, people in institutions, and members of communities where the carrier rate is high. It is likely that it will eventually be offered as a routine immunisation, in the same way as are triple antigen and other immunisations.
If someone actually has an incident that places them at high risk (such as getting accidently jabbed with an infected needle), and they are not immune, there is another injection which can be given within seventy-two hours which will help to prevent infection. This is a short-acting immunity-boosting injection, which should last long enough to enable the person to be vaccinated properly.
It is important that carriers take extra care not to put other people at risk. This does not mean locking yourself away and never talking to anyone; there should be no shame or blame attached to being a hepatitis B carrier. It is important to be responsible, and this means telling any people who may be at risk of contracting the disease from you, so that they can protect themselves. This includes people who may have contact with any of your blood, vaginal fluid, and possibly your breast milk or great quantities of your saliva (for instance, sexual partners, treating doctors, nurses or dentists, tattooists, acupuncturists).
Now that immunisation is available the risk of catching hepatitis B should be decreasing. However, the number of immunised people in the community at the moment is small, and will be slow to grow, so the routine preventative measures will be important for quite a while.