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Hepatitis B (HBV) is the virus that causes the liver disease Hepatitis B.Hepatitis
B can cause a short-term illness (acute) or a life long (chronic)
infection. Chronic infection may go on to cause life-threatening
cirrhosis (scaring of the liver), liver failure, or liver cancer. After
acute HBV infection, the risk of developing chronic infection varies
with age. Infants infected at birth have about a 90% chance of chronic
illness, compared to 1-10% for older children and adults.
Hepatitis B virus is spread by exposure to blood and body fluids.
HBV is transmitted by exposure to blood or body fluid from an acutely
or chronically infected person. The virus can be spread during
unprotected sex, direct blood to blood contact (for example, sharing
needles during illegal drug use, and from infected mother to baby,
usually at birth). HBV is not spread by casual contact, such as shaking
hands. Anyone who has not gotten the vaccine can get HBV, but there are
people who may be at greater risk. Those at higher risk include:
Symptoms to look for:
Symptoms usually occur within 45 to 160 days (usually 60 to90 days)
after the person has been exposed; though many times a person can be
asymptomatic (carrier). Carriers are at risk of liver problems later in
life, like liver cancer or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).
See a doctor immediately for treatment/ recommendations.
A blood test is required for diagnosis of HBV. If you test positive
you need to know if you have a new infection, have recovered from a past
infection, or if you have a chronic infection. ALL pregnant women
should be tested for HBV.
Limited treatment is available for hepatitis B.
There is no special treatment for someone who has acute infection;
however rest and avoiding alcohol and certain drugs are advised. Even
though there is still no complete cure for chronic hepatitis B, there
are 6 approved drugs for adults (2 for children) and other drugs under
development. Talk to your doctor for more information and get a medical
evaluation for liver disease every 6-12 months.
Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable.Routine
vaccination is recommended for all newborns prior to hospital discharge,
all children and teens ages 0 through 18 years, and all persons who
wish to be protected from hepatitis B virus infection. Persons who are
considered at higher risk (listed above) and travelers to areas where
the disease is common should also be immunized. Babies born to
HBV-infected mothers should get the vaccine and a shot called HBIG
(hepatitis B immune globulin) within 12 hours of birth. Post exposure
treatment with HBIG and/or the vaccine is considered for occupational
exposure after evaluation of thesource and the exposed person.
Other prevention measures besides vaccination
include practice safe sex, avoid direct contact with blood or body
fluids, wash hands after any potential exposure, cover all cuts, avoid
sharing personal items i.e. razors, clippers, or toothbrushes, clean up
blood spills with bleach solution, and make sure new, sterile needles
are used for ear or body piercing, tattoos, or acupuncture.
Carriers should avoid drinking
alcohol or taking certain medications which are harmful to the liver.
They should also get vaccinated for hepatitis A. Follow standard
precautions to ensure close contacts are not directly contaminated by
his or her blood or body fluids. Carriers should not share personal
items i.e. razors or other items potentially contaminated with blood.
Susceptible household members, particularly sexual partners, should be
immunized with the hepatitis B vaccine. Don’t donate blood, organs, or
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