What is hepatitis B?
A serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is called Hepatitis B. For some, the infection becomes chronic and lasts for more than six months. Having chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis. This condition is permanent scarring of the liver.
Most adults make a full recovery even though its signs and symptoms are severe. Babies and children are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B infections.
A vaccine can prevent, but there is no cure if you have this condition. If you are infected, some precautions can be taken to prevent the virus from spreading to other people.
How is hepatitis B spread?
You can get hepatitis B from exposure to the blood, semen, and other body fluids of an infected person. You can get the infection through:
- Having unprotected sex.
- Sharing or using dirty needles for drug use, tattoos, or piercings.
- Sharing everyday items that contain bodily fluids, such as razors, toothbrushes, piercing jewelry, and nail clippers.
- A person who does not use clean instruments is receiving medical treatment.
- Someone with an infection was bitten.
- Birth of a pregnant woman with an infection.
Hepatitis B is not transmitted by:
- Kiss on the cheek or lips
- Coughing or sneezing
- Hug, shake hands or hold hands
- Eating food prepared by someone with an infection
Acute and chronic are two types of hepatitis B infections
Acute: Acute infection occurs initially when you are first infected with hepatitis B. Most people can clear it from their bodies and recover. In fact, this is true of 4 out of 5 people who get the disease.
Chronic: If you have not cleared the infection in six months or more, you have chronic hepatitis B. It is chronic hepatitis B, which can lead to inflammation and serious and life-threatening cirrhosis diseases. Treatment slows the progression of the disease, reduces the chance of liver cancer, and increases your chances of survival.
Short-term (acute) hepatitis B infection does not always cause symptoms. For example, it is not uncommon for children under the age of 5 to develop symptoms if they become infected.
If you have symptoms, they may include:
- Jaundice (the whiteness of your skin or eyes turns yellow and your pea turns brown or orange).
- Light-colored poop
- Fatigue that lasts for weeks or months.
- Stomach problem such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
Symptoms may not appear for 1 to 6 months after contracting the virus. You may not feel anything. One-third of those with the disease. They only find out through a blood test.
Symptoms of chronic hepatitis B infection do not always appear. If they do, it may seem like a short-term (serious) infection.
It is caused by an infection with the hepatitis B virus. You can get the virus if you have unprotected sex with an infected partner. People who use intravenous (IV) drugs can get hepatitis B when they share needles with people who have the virus.
Healthcare workers (such as nurses, laboratory technicians, and doctors) can get Infected if they accidentally get caught with a needle used on an infected patient. The infection can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth. If you go to parts of the world where hepatitis B is common, you are also more likely to get infected.
It is not spread by casual contact. For example, you cannot get by hugging or shaking the hand of an infected person.
People at high risk for HBV:
- Babies of mothers with HBV
- Sex partners of people with HBV
- People who have sex without contraception and those who have multiple sexual partners
- People who inject illicit drugs
- Those who share a home with a person with a chronic HBV infection.
- Public health and safety workers at occupational risk from contaminated blood or body fluids
- People undergoing hemodialysis, which is a type of kidney treatment
- People taking drugs that suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer
- People with HIV
- People from an area where HBV is high
- All women during pregnancy
The separation of hepatitis B from hepatitis caused by other viral agents is not clinically possible and therefore requires a laboratory diagnosis of the disease. There are several blood tests available to diagnose and monitor people with infection. They can be used to differentiate between acute and chronic infections.
The diagnosis focuses on the detection of the infection of surface antigen HBsAg. WHO recommends that all blood donations be tested for infection to ensure blood safety and prevent accidental infections in people who receive blood products.
Acute HBV infection involves HBsAg and the immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody against the core antigen, HBcAg. In the early stages of infection, patients can also be seropositive for hepatitis B antigen (HBG). HBeAg is usually a high-level replication marker of the virus. The presence of HBeAg in the blood and body fluids of an infected person indicates a high infection.
Chronic infection is characterized by the persistence of HBsAg for at least 6 months (with or without joint HBeAg). The persistence of HBsAg is an important marker for the development of life after chronic liver disease and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
Hepatitis B vaccine and immune globulin: If you think you’ve had an infection in the past 24 hours, talk to your doctor right away. If you are not vaccinated, it is possible to prevent a reliable source of infection by injecting the hepatitis B vaccine and the HBV immune globulin. It is a solution of antibodies that act against HBV.
Treatment options: Acute hepatitis B generally does not require treatment. Most people get over a serious infection on their own. However, relaxation and hydration can help you recover. Antiviral medications are used to treat chronic hepatitis B. These can help you fight the virus. They can also reduce the risk of liver problems in the future.
If the infection seriously damages your liver, you may need a liver transplant. Liver transplantation means that the surgeon removes your liver and replaces it with a donor’s liver. Most donor livers come from deceased donors.
Most people with chronic hepatitis B don’t feel sick or know they have it unless it is in its later stages, some have serious problems. Chronic hepatitis B can cause:
- Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver: This makes the liver work harder and eventually leads to liver failure.
- Liver cancer: If you have chronic hepatitis B, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound test to check for signs of liver cancer.
- For liver failure: This happens when your liver can no longer do its job. You may also hear it referred to as “end-stage” liver disease. It occurs only in severe cases of chronic hepatitis B.
- Nephropathy: Researchers have found that people with cirrhosis are more likely to develop certain types of kidney disease.
- Vascular problems: These include inflammation of the blood vessels.
The vaccine is usually given in three or four shots every six months.
The vaccine is recommended for:
- Newly born
- Children and adolescents are not vaccinated at birth
- Those who work or live in a facility for the developmentally disabled
- People who live with people with hepatitis B.
- Healthcare workers, emergency workers, and other people associated with blood
- Anyone with a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV
- People who have multiple sexual partners
- Sex partners of people with hepatitis B
- People who inject illicit drugs or people who share needles and syringes
- People with chronic liver disease
- Those with end-stage kidney disease
- Travelers planning to travel to a part of the world with a high rate of hepatitis B infection