Hepatitis B, also known as HBV, is a disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus. This virus interferes with liver functions and can cause pathological harm. Normally, the infected person can get rid of this virus, but very few cannot, and thus becomes chronically infected. This virus can be fatal, either from liver cancer or cirrhosis.
The number of hepatitis B patients has gone down from 2 thousand in the 1980s to 18 thousand in 2012, and it mostly affects people in the age of 20 to 50 years. Only a small percentage of people have severe hepatitis B.
Types of Hepatitis B
There are two types of hepatitis B. One is “Acute” (short lived) and another one is “Chronic” (long lived) hepatitis B.
Acute Hepatitis B: Acute hepatitis B does not last longer than 6 months. Adults who get infected with it can get rid of the virus within 6 months through proper medication. So this can be cured quite easily. Even if the signs and symptoms are severe, adults can easily be cured.
Chronic Hepatitis B: Chronic hepatitis B lasts longer more than 6 months. By this time, it can damage the liver. Normally, babies and children are more likely to get infected with it. This type of hepatitis B increases the risk of liver failure.
Causes of Hepatitis B
Below are some regular ways of transmitting B virus from person to person
1. Sexual Contact: If you have sexual contact with an infected person without any protection like using latex condoms.
2. Sharing Needles: This is the most common reason as B virus can easily transmit from one person to another via sharing the same needles or syringes contaminated with infected or polluted blood.
3. Accidental Needle Sticks: Health care persons or volunteer can also get the infection of B virus if they come into contact with infected human blood.
4. Mother to Child: Pregnant women who are already infected by B virus can pass the virus to their babies during the time of birth. However, nowadays, newborn babies can be cured by providing a vaccination during birth time.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
The signs and symptom of B virus appear within two to four months after a person has been infected. The symptoms for acute hepatitis B are as follows:
And for chronic hepatitis B:
Until you get a blood test, you won't know for certain if you've been infected by virus B or not. It's even surprising how some people never know they got B virus until the doctor finds out after a blood test.
People at risk
- People who are involved in blood handling - usually doctors, nurses, and lab assistants - have increased risk of getting infected.
- Living with an infected person (same area) also increases the risk of getting the virus.
- Using an unsterilized needle.
- Infants whose mother is infected with the virus.
- Through blood transfusion from an infected person.
As there are two types of hepatitis B, the doctor will recommend a treatment based on the type.
Acute Hepatitis B: If your consultant finds that you have acute hepatitis B, there is usually no special treatment required, given that it can be healed through proper rest and nutrition. The proper nutrition will fight against the virus to heal the disease.
Chronic Hepatitis B: If your consultant finds that you have chronic hepatitis B, then there will be two types of treatment. One is to decrease the threat of liver disease and the other is to prevent you from transmitting the virus to another person. Below are details of these treatments.
- Antiviral Medication: Based on the advice given by your doctor, you can use different antivirals namely lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera), telbivudine (Tyzeka) and entecavir (Baraclude). These antivirals help fight the virus and keep your liver damage-free.
- Intron A: This antiviral is advisable to those who do not wish to undergo long-term treatment, or women who are planning to get pregnant within one year. This antiviral is taken by injection. It has few side effects, some of which include depression, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness.
- Liver Transplant: If your liver has already been damaged by virus B, liver transplant is an option. You need to go under surgery and the surgeon will remove the damaged liver and transplant a healthy one. The transplanted liver mostly comes from a donor.
There are number of ways to prevent Hepatitis B.
If you are a carrier of hepatitis B, you should not take care of yourself only. You should also be extra careful of not passing the virus to a healthy person. Below are a few key tips to ensure utmost health and safety.
- Have safer sex: Make sure to use latex condom to reduce the risk of spreading hepatitis B. But remember that using a condom only reduces the risk but do not fully eliminate the threat. Your sex partner also needs to be tested to know whether he or she has hepatitis B.
- Do not share personal equipment: Never ever share a used needle or syringe. Even razor blades and toothbrushes also. This personal equipment may carry B virus. The needle used in syringe or for body piercing or making tattoos should always be sterilized.
Other Preventative Measures
- Be aware of Hepatitis B virus: Awareness can decrease the chances of being infected with B virus. To live well, have regular consultations with your doctor and follow prescribed advice or medication.
- Vaccination: All children should be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- There are 3 shots: the first one is given at birth and the remaining two are administered between the ages of 6 to 18 months.
- Children under 19 years old should also catch up with the 3 doses.
- Adults who are at the risk of developing hepatitis B should also be vaccinated with the 3 doses similar to those for children.