Hepatitis B: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention
Hepatitis B is a very common disease throughout the world. It is a viral infection that attacks the liver, causing both acute and chronic diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2019, 296 million people had chronic hepatitis B infection, with 1.5 million new infections each year. Let’s find out more about this disease.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV is one of five types of viral hepatitis, the others are hepatitis A, C, D, and E.
This condition is a significant global health issue. It can lead to chronic infection and increase the risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
When first infected, the majority of people do not exhibit any symptoms. They typically appear one to six months after contracting the virus.
If you do have symptoms, they could be as follows:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Fever with dark urine
- Joint pain
- Appetite loss
- Vomiting and nausea
- Weakness and exhaustion
- Your skin and the whites of your eyes are turning yellow.
Acute hepatitis can cause acute liver failure, which can lead to death. Long-term complications of HBV infections include advanced liver diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which have a high morbidity and mortality rate.
Causes and Trasmission
Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus spreads from person to person via blood, sperm, or other bodily fluids. Even if you are not sick, you can spread the HBV virus.
Although the virus is found in saliva, it is not transmitted through:
- Sharing eating utensils
- Food and water
- Insect bites
Possible methods of transmission include:
- Direct contact with infected blood
- Transmission from mother to baby during birth
- Spread by needlestick injury, tattooing, piercing, and exposure to infected blood and body fluids
- Oral, vaginal, and anal sex
- Using a razor or other personal item contaminated with infected fluid.
HBV virus can live outside the body for at least seven days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of someone who has not been immunized.
Is Hepatitis B curable?
There is no cure for hepatitis B, but with proper management, those infected with the virus can expect to live a normal life if it is detected early.
If chronic HBV starts causing permanent liver damage, a liver transplant may improve long-term survival.
Who is more prone to Hepatitis B?
Although anyone can get hepatitis B, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the following people are at a higher risk:
- Infected infants born to infected mothers.
- Individuals who inject drugs or share needles, syringes, and other drug-related equipment.
- Sexual partners of people infected with hepatitis B.
- Males who have sex with males.
- Workers in health care and public safety who are exposed to blood on the job.
- Patients undergoing hemodialysis.
Tips to prevent Hepatitis B
One of the most effective ways to prevent hepatitis B is to use the vaccine. It is usually divided into three doses over the course of six months.
The CDC recommends that the following groups should get vaccinated:
- Infants should receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and the series should be completed by 6–18 months of age.
- Children and adolescents under the age of 19 who have not yet received the vaccine should be immunized.
And the adults listed below should get vaccinated
- Whose sex partners have HBV virus.
- Persons who are sexually active but are not in a long term
- Men who have sexual contact with other men
- Those living with someone infected with the HBV virus
- Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or body fluids
- People with chronic liver disease, kidney disease on dialysis, HIV infection, infection with hepatitis C, or diabetes.
Get HbsAb test
If you already have got the vaccine, it’s also critical to have your HBsAb tested at least once a year because the amount of antibodies gradually decreases over time. This test determines the presence and quantity of HBV antibodies in your blood to determine your level of immunity to the virus.
The test should not be confused with the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) or hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) tests, which are used to determine if you have HBV infection.
Aside from vaccination, there are a few other easy ways to help stop the spread of HBV virus:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after any potential exposure to blood
- Use condoms with sexual partners
- Do not share personal care items that might have blood on them (razors, toothbrushes)
- Make sure new, sterile needles are used for ear or body piercing, tattoos, and acupuncture.
Get health check-up regularly
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Reference: CDC, Healthline, Medical News Today, WHO, Stanford Healthcare.