What is Hepatitis B? Hepatitis B Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which affects the liver. It can cause both acute and chronic infections. Many people have no symptoms during the initial infection. Some develop a rapid onset of sickness with vomiting, yellow skin, feeling tired, dark urine and abdominal pain. Often these symptoms last a few weeks and rarely does the initial infection result in death. It may take 30 to 180 days for symptoms to begin. In those who get infected around the time of birth 90% develop chronic hepatitis B while less than 10% of those infected after the age of five do. Most of those with chronic disease have no symptoms; however, cirrhosis and liver cancer may eventually develop. These complications results in the death of 15 to 25% of those with chronic disease.
You can have hepatitis B and not know it. You may not have symptoms. If you do, they can make you feel like you have the flu. But as long as you have the virus, you can spread it to others.
It’s caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person.
Hepatitis B: Transmission
Transmission of hepatitis B virus results from exposure to infectious blood or body fluids containing blood. Possible mode of transmission.
- Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
- Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
- Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren’t sterilized.
- Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.
- A mother who has the virus can pass it to her baby during delivery.
Medical experts recommend that all pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B. If you have the virus, your baby can get shots to help prevent infection with the virus.
Note: You cannot get hepatitis B from casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sneezing, coughing, or sharing food or drinks.
Prevention From Transmission Of Hepatitis B
- Use a condom when you have sex.
- Don’t share needles.
- Wear latex or plastic gloves if you have to touch blood.
- Don’t share toothbrushes or razors.
- Don’t get a tattoo, or make sure that the needles used have been cleaned properly and are sterile.
Hepatitis B: Symptoms
- Feeling very tired.
- Mild fever.
- Not wanting to eat.
- Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
- Belly pain.
- Diarrhea or constipation.
- Muscle aches and joint pain.
- Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
Note: Many people with hepatitis B don’t know they have it, because they don’t have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may just feel like you have the flu.
Treatment: Hepatitis B
Acute hepatitis B infection does not usually require treatment and most adults clear the infection spontaneously. Early antiviral treatment may be required in fewer than 1% of people, whose infection takes a very aggressive course (fulminant hepatitis) or who are immunocompromised. On the other hand, treatment of chronic infection may be necessary to reduce the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Chronically infected individuals with persistently elevated serum alanine aminotransferase, a marker of liver damage, and HBV DNA levels are candidates for therapy. Treatment lasts from six months to a year, depending on medication and genotype.
Vaccines for the prevention of hepatitis B have been routinely recommended for infants since 1991 in the United States. Most vaccines are given in three doses over a course of months. A protective response to the vaccine is defined as an anti-HBs antibody concentration of at least 10 mIU/ml in the recipient’s serum. The vaccine is more effective in children and 95 percent of those vaccinated have protective levels of antibody. This drops to around 90% at 40 years of age and to around 75 percent in those over 60 years. The protection afforded by vaccination is long lasting even after antibody levels fall below 10 mIU/ml. Vaccination at birth is recommended for all infants of HBV infected mothers. A combination of hepatitis B immune globulin and an accelerated course of HBV vaccine prevents HBV transmission around the time of birth in 86% to 99% of cases.