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Hepatitis B: The Notable Symptoms, Causes and Prevention to Hepatitis B

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The hepatitis B  is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is not related to hepatitis A virus or hepatitis C virus. There are three phases of the infection that could lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

The first phase of the infection is the acute phase, in this phase, many infected persons are unaware and the virus is self-resolving, at this phase. The next phase is the chronic phase, which leads to the last phase where the infected persons develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

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According to research, about 300 million people are living with HBV worldwide. In 2015, hepatitis B recorded about 887,000 deaths worldwide.

In addition, hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. It is also more infectious than hepatitis C. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are transmitted through infected blood, while hepatitis A is transmitted through infected fecal matter.

Hepatitis B Symptoms

Although they are many people living with the virus, unknowingly. However, they are notable symptoms associated with the virus.

In the acute phase, most people do not experience any symptoms, however, some people have an acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Some of the most common symptoms of hepatitis B are;

  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • extreme fatigue
  • stomach pain (especially the upper right quadrant)
  • loss of appetite
  • joint pain
  • muscle soreness
  • dark urine
  • light-colored stools
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

It is important to note that symptoms of hepatitis B usually lasts for a few weeks, however, some people can have the symptoms for more than 6 months.

Sadly, people with chronic hepatitis B are unable to clear the virus. They may experience ongoing symptoms or live symptom-free for years.

Although, not every infection becomes a chronic one. In other words, the likelihood of the infection becoming a chronic condition depends on the age at which a person is infected. Children infected between the age of six, are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B.

According to research, about 80 percent to 90 percent of infants are infected with hepatitis B during their first year of life will go on to develop chronic infections.

And 30 percent to 50 percent of children infected before the age of 6 will develop chronic hepatitis B. Compared to less than 5 percent of otherwise healthy adults who develop a chronic infection.

Causes of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection. The virus can survive outside the body for at least, 7 days. During this period, it can cause infection in a person, if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.

It can be detected within 30 to 60 days after infection. It can persist and develop into chronic hepatitis B, especially if someone is infected at a young age.

Four ways, hepatitis B can be transmitted

These are the four ways hepatitis B can be transmitted into the body;

  1. Perinatal transmission: Perinatal transmission is simply the transmission of the virus from mother to child, at birth. It is one of the ways that the virus can spread in the endemic areas.
  2. Exposure to infected blood: Another common cause of hepatitis B is exposure to infected blood. Transmission from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first 5 years of life is especially common. This can be possible through exposure to blood by sharing razors, toothbrushes or any sharp instruments with an infected person. In other words, if infected blood comes into contact with the open sores of an uninfected person, this can spread hepatitis B.
  3. Sexual transmission: Just like HIV, sexual transmission of hepatitis B happens when the body fluids (semen or vaginal secretions) of an infected person enter the body of an unvaccinated person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, hepatitis B most commonly spreads through sexual transmission, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of all acute hepatitis B cases. People with multiple sex partners or men who have sex with men are the most at risk of transmitting hepatitis B through sexual exposure.
  4. Needle sharing: The reuse of needles and syringes can transmit hepatitis B. This can happen in a healthcare setting or among people who inject drugs. In addition, it can also spread through instruments contaminated with blood used in tattooing or medical procedures.

Hepatitis B Graphics

Hepatitis B Graphic

Hepatitis B Graphic. Source: https://draxe.com/hepatitis-b/

Prevention of Hepatitis B

There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B, however, the virus is prevented through vaccination. Vaccines have been available since 1982 and are taken in series of dosage.

The first one is given soon after birth, the second one is recommended to be given at least a month after the first, while the last one is given at least 8 weeks after the second.

The CDC recommends that all children receive a birth dose of the HBV vaccine and complete the series by 6 to 18 months of age.

Below are lists of others who should receive the vaccine:

  • children and adolescents not previously vaccinated
  • all healthcare workers
  • anyone who may be exposed to blood and blood products through work or treatment
  • dialysis patients and recipients of solid organ transplants
  • residents and staff of correctional facilities, halfway houses, and community residences
  • people who inject drugs
  • household and sexual contacts of people with chronic HBV infection
  • those with multiple sexual partners
  • travelers to countries where HBV is common if they have not been vaccinated

After taking the complete dosage, the vaccine induces protective antibody levels in over 95 percent of people vaccinated. The protection can last for at least 20 years and is usually lifelong.

In conclusion, there are other safe care practices in order to prevent the spread of the virus. These are as follows;

  • wearing appropriate protective equipment when working in healthcare settings or dealing with medical emergencies
  • not sharing needles
  • following safe sexual practices
  • cleaning any blood spills or dried blood with gloved hands using 1:10 dilution of one part household bleach to 10 parts of water for disinfecting the area

Conclusion

Hepatitis B is a virus transmitted through infected blood or body fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid. The virus can move from acute to chronic which can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer, if not diagnosed at an acute phase.

Unlike adults, children are most likely to get infected easily, therefore, a preventive series of dosage is recommended immediately after birth.

In addition, other preventive methods include the following;

  • wearing appropriate protective equipment when working in healthcare settings or dealing with medical emergencies
  • not sharing needles
  • following safe sexual practices
  • cleaning any blood spills or dried blood with gloved hands using 1:10 dilution of one part household bleach to 10 parts of water for disinfecting the area

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