Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus causes a life-threatening liver infection that often leads to chronic liver disease. Worldwide, an estimated two billion people have been infected with the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and more than 350 million have chronic (long-term) liver infections.

Transmission

  • Contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person
  • HBV is 50 to 100 times more infectious than the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HBV can survive outside the body for at least 7 days and can still cause infection.
  • Not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, etc.

Common modes of transmission are:

  • Sex with an infected partner
  • Injection drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment
  • Birth to an infected mother
  • Contact with blood or open sores of an infected person
  • Needle sticks or sharp instrument exposures
  • Sharing items such as razors

Signs and Symptoms

The virus incubation period is 90 days on average, but can vary from about 30 to 180 days. HBV may be detected 30 to 60 days after infection and persist for widely variable periods of time.

Many people who become infected with HBV experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but they may still carry the infectious virus and pass it on to others.

When symptoms do appear they are similar to those of Hepatitis A and may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice

Hepatitis B infection may be either short-lived (acute hepatitis B) or long lasting (chronic hepatitis B).

Acute Hepatitis B Infection
  • lasts less than six months
  • your immune system is usually able to clear the virus from your body
  • you should recover completely within a few months
  • most people who acquire hepatitis B as adults have an acute infectionBack pain
Chronic Hepatitis B Infection
  • lasts six months or longer
  • your immune system can’t fight off the virus, Hepatitis B infection may become lifelong, possibly leading to serious illnesses such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer
  • most infants infected with HBV at birth and many children infected between 1 and 5 years of age become chronically infected
    chronic infection may go undetected for decades until a person becomes seriously ill from liver disease

Prevention

Hepatitis B vaccine is 95% effective in preventing HBV infection and its chronic consequences. It is the first vaccine against a major human cancer.

In addition to vaccination, there are other simple ways to help stop the spread of Hepatitis B:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after any potential exposure
  • Practice safe sex with all partners
  • Avoid direct contact with blood and bodily fluids
  • Clean up blood spills with a fresh diluted bleach solution
  • Cover all cuts carefully
  • Avoid sharing sharp items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, and earrings or body rings
  • Discard sanitary napkins and tampons into plastic bags
  • Make sure new, sterile needles are used for ear or body piercing, tattoos, and acupuncture

Vaccines available to prevent Hepatitis B Infection:

Hepatitis B Vaccines

Resources for this article:
http://www.mayoclinic.com
http://www.who.int
http://www.cdc.gov
http://www.avert.org
http://www.hepb.org