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All You Need To Know About Hepatitis B

All You Need To Know About Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). For some people, hepatitis B infection becomes chronic, meaning it lasts more than six months.

Having chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis — a condition that causes permanent scarring of the liver.

Most people infected with hepatitis B as adults recover fully, even if their signs and symptoms are severe.

Infants and children are more likely to develop a chronic hepatitis B infection. A vaccine can prevent hepatitis B, but there’s no cure if you have it.

If you’re infected, taking certain precautions can help prevent spreading HBV to others.

Worldwide 2 billion people are exposed to hepatitis B infection, 350 million have chronic infection, 65 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

Uganda is highly endemic with 10% national prevalence of hepatitis B infection, rates varying across the country from 4% in the southwest and 25% in the Northeast.

Childhood vaccination was rolled out in 2002, the effect of which on the burden of hepatitis B has not been examined.

We determined the prevalence and risk factors for hepatitis B infection in the Northern Uganda Municipality of Gulu.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B, ranging from mild to severe, usually appear about one to four months after you’ve been infected. Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B may include:

When to see a doctor

If you know you’ve been exposed to hepatitis B, contact your doctor immediately. A preventive treatment may reduce your risk of infection if you receive the treatment within 24 hours of exposure to the virus.

If you think you have signs or symptoms of hepatitis B, contact your doctor.

Causes

Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus is passed from person to person through blood, semen or other body fluids.

Common ways HBV is transmitted include:

Acute vs. chronic hepatitis B

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

The younger you are when you get hepatitis B — particularly newborns or children younger than 5 — the higher your risk the infection becoming chronic. Chronic infection may go undetected for decades until a person becomes seriously ill from liver disease.

Risk factors

Hepatitis B spreads through contact with blood, semen or other body fluids from an infected person. Your risk of hepatitis B infection increases if you:

Having a chronic HBV infection can lead to serious complications, such as:

 

Preparing for your appointment

You’re likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases, you may be referred immediately to a specialist. Doctors who specialize in treating hepatitis B include:

What you can do

Here’s some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

Listing questions for your doctor can help you make the most of your time together. For hepatitis B infection, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

Tests and diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have hepatitis B, he or she will examine you and likely order blood tests. Blood tests can determine if you have the virus in your system and whether it’s acute or chronic. Your doctor might also want to remove a small sample of your liver for testing (liver biopsy) to determine whether you have liver damage. During this test, your doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin and into your liver and removes a tissue sample for laboratory analysis.

Screening healthy people for hepatitis B

Doctors sometimes test certain healthy people for hepatitis B infection because the virus can damage the liver before causing signs and symptoms. Talk to your doctor about screening for hepatitis B infection if you:

Treatments and drugs

Treatment to prevent hepatitis B infection after exposure

If you know you’ve been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, call your doctor immediately. If you haven’t been vaccinated or aren’t sure whether you’ve been vaccinated or whether you responded to the vaccination, receiving an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin within 12 hours of coming in contact with the virus may help protect you from developing hepatitis B. You should be vaccinated at the same time.

Treatment for acute hepatitis B infection

If your doctor determines your hepatitis B infection is acute — meaning it is short-lived and will go away on its own — you may not need treatment. Instead, your doctor might recommend rest and adequate nutrition and fluids while your body fights the infection.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B infection

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B infection, you may have treatment to reduce the risk of liver disease and prevent you from passing the infection to others. Treatments include:

Other drugs to treat hepatitis B are being developed.

Lifestyle and home remedies

If you’ve been infected with hepatitis B, take steps to protect others from the virus.

Coping and support

If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis B infection, the following suggestions might help you cope:

Prevention

The hepatitis B vaccine is typically given as three or four injections over six months. You can’t get hepatitis B from the vaccine.

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for:

Take precautions to avoid HBV

Other ways to reduce your risk of HBV include:

Adapted from http://www.mayoclinic.org/

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