Hepatitis B Infection and How to Avoid it
Hepatitis B infection is pretty much avoidable all you need is learn how and follow the simple rules. However we will first of all find out what hepatitis B is and how you can catch the disease. You need to understand the symptoms of hepatitis B and know how to protect yourself from the deadly disease.
So let’s go……….
What Is Hepatitis B Infection?
Hepatitis B is a serious disease that affects your liver and is caused by a virus known as hepatitis B virus. This virus is a tiny bug which can only be seen with the help of an electron microscope. The disease is a serious public health problem that leads to liver cirrhosis (scarring), cancer and death. Statistics have shown that more than 300 million people are affected by the infection all over the world. The problem is more in sub- Saharan Africa and East Asia followed by India and the Middle East.
How Can You Catch It?
When you come into contact with the blood or other body fluids of the infected person the virus enters your body and start multiplying. This virus may easily enter your body through a damaged skin or the thin layer covering inside of your mouth, genitals or rectum. It occurs when blood, saliva, vaginal fluid or semen of an infected person come into contact with the parts of your body described above.
Hepatitis B virus is spread through kiss, having sex, sharing of needle and other sharp objects with an infected person. If you are a pregnant woman you can spread the virus to your child during birth. While it can accidentally enters your body during tooth removal or other surgery if the instruments were not properly cleaned.
Are you At Risk of Catching The Infection?
You may have higher chances of getting hepatitis B infection due to the following reasons:
- You are a man who have sex with men or have multiple sex partners and have not received hepatitis B vaccination in the past. Also if you visit commercial sex workers you have higher chance of catching the virus.
- If you receive blood (transfusion) frequently or require dialysis (cleaning of your blood due to kidney failure).
- Also if you received a body organ from another person
- You are held in prison for a period of time.
- If you have the habit of Injection drug abuser.
- When you live in the same house with an individual suffering from chronic hepatitis B infection you are at higher risk of getting the disease.
- You are a health care worker.
- If you travel a lot and have not completed your hepatitis B vaccination your chance of catching the disease is high.
Symptoms and Signs
You may suffer a mild illness that lasts only a few weeks (acute hepatitis). The illness may continue for many months or years and this is known as chronic hepatitis B.
Your symptoms may include: extreme body weakness, yellowness of eyes and skin, dark urine, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. You could become very ill and lose your life within a short time due to liver failure.
If your illness continued for several years (chronic hepatitis) you may develop liver cirrhosis (scarring) or cancer. However children have higher chances of having chronic hepatitis B infection.
Your blood will be tested to make a diagnosis of hepatitis B infection. The tests are carried out again at different intervals to understand if the disease is responding to treatment.
There is no any specific treatment for acute hepatitis B infection which lasts a few weeks. In this phase of the disease the treatment you need is adequate nutrition and fluids. However chronic hepatitis B is treated with drugs that help to prevent liver cirrhosis and cancer. Also you will have to take the drugs continuously for life.
How to Avoid Hepatitis B Infection
Protect yourself from hepatitis B infection by following these tips which are recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation):
- You should get vaccinated against hepatitis B virus: the vaccine is successful in preventing hepatitis B in up to 95% of cases.
- Vaccinate infants within 24 hours of birth then the vaccination is repeated at 1 and 6 months of life. This vaccination series protects the child from hepatitis B for at least 20 years or for life.
- All children and young adults less than 18 years should be vaccinated if they have not received the vaccination in the past.
- If you have high chances of getting the infection (as described above) you should also receive the vaccination.
- Practice safe sex by avoiding multiple sex partners and use condoms because they protect from direct contact with body fluids.
- Avoid sharing of sharp objects such as razor blade, needle, hair clippers and nail cutter. You should make sure that your health service provider uses new syringe and needle whenever it is required.
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Bloom, S., Webster, G. & Marks, D. (2012). Oxford Handbook of Gastroenterology & Hepatology [mobile]. Oxford University Press. UK
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