WHAT IS IT?
Hepatitis B (Hep B) is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Acute Hepatitis B illness is short-term and occurs within 6 months after being exposed to the HBV. Acute Hepatitis B can lead to Chronic Hepatitis B infection. This is a long-term illness that occurs when the HBV remains in a person’s body.
Hep B is spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the HBV enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles or other drug injection equipment; sharing personal items such as razors or glucose monitors, or from mother to baby at birth.
The risk for chronic infection is related to age when getting acute hepatitis. 90% of infected infants will develop chronic hepatitis; 25% to 50% of infected children ages 1 to 5 years will develop chronic hepatitis; 6% to 10% of infected children over the age of 5 will develop chronic hepatitis; and 2% to 6% of infected adults will develop chronic hepatitis. Up to 1.4 million people in the United States have chronic Hep B. 2,000 to 4,000 people in the United States die each year from hepatitis B and its complications.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Dark Urine
- Joint Pain
- Clay-colored bowel movements
It generally begins 3 months after exposure. It can last 2 weeks to 6 months
Many people have no symptoms for chronic Hep B. About 15 to 25% of people with chronic Hep B can develop serious liver conditions. Some symptoms include cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver), liver failure, liver cancer, and deterioration of brain function and death. Some antiviral drugs or corticosteroids may help. Some people may need a liver transplant.
People with chronic Hep B should be monitored regularly by a doctor. Their liver should be monitored for signs of liver disease and evaluated for possible treatment. Alcohol should be avoided and any medications or supplements that could potentially damage the liver.
HOW CAN I PREVENT CONTRACTING THIS DISEASE?
The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is to get vaccinated. It is usually given as three doses over a 6-month period. The best way to prevent Hep B is by being vaccinated.
After exposure to Hepatitis B virus, timely prophylaxis can prevent HBV infection. Hepatitis B vaccine is used in all cases but in some circumstances, Hepatitis B immune globulin is recommended in addition to the vaccine for added protection.