Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is a serious infection that can become a chronic condition for some people. It can lead to complications such as liver failure and liver cancer. More than two billion people in the world is said to have been infected with HBV.
Signs and Symptoms
At the early stages, hepatitis B is usually unnoticeable because the virus does not develop signs and symptoms immediately. They usually appear 12 weeks after a person is infected. Some of the symptoms include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain, specifically around the liver area
- Dark-colored urine
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Pain in the joint areas
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through:
- Sexual contact
- Needle sharing
- From a pregnant women to her child
People who are at great risk of getting infected with Hepatitis B virus are those who:
- Engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Have sexually transmitted diseases
- Have received blood transfusions
- Have travelled to places with high rates of HBV infection
Infants and unborn children whose mothers are infected with HBV are also at high risk.
People who have been exposed to the virus should get a hepatitis B immune globulin shot within 24 hours. This will help prevent the virus from developing further. A series of three hepatitis shots should also be given to the patient.
There are several drugs that doctors use to treat chronic HBV infection.
- Adefovir dipivoxil
If the liver is already severely damaged, a liver transplant may be the only option. Given that there will be no problems getting a healthy donor, liver transplants are usually successful.
To keep yourself safe from HBV infection, you should:
- Know the health status of your sexual partner
- Always practice safe sex. Use condoms if you are unsure of your partner’s HBV status.
- Make sure that you use sterile needles for drugs and tattooing
- Practice extreme caution when getting blood products in other countries