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Visit the Staying Hep B Free and Prevention slideshow
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that causes severe inflammation and liver damage. The virus that causes hepatitis B, HBV, is extremely contagious – in fact, it is 50-100 times more contagious than the AIDS virus – and is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids.
In some cases of hepatitis B infection, the body is able to clear the infection and make a full recovery. This is known as acute hepatitis B. In other cases, the virus remains in the body and continues to cause damage to the liver. This is known as chronic hepatitis B.
The Word Health Organization estimates that 240 million people world wide who are chronically infected with hepatitis B. In the US, it is estimated that nearly 20,000 new cases of Hepatitis B occurred in 2011.
Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the hepatitis B Virus or HBV. The HBV virus is a member of a family of viruses that cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) including the Hepatitis A, C, D, & E viruses. Transmission of the HBV virus occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the most common forms of HBV transmission include:
The HPV virus can survive outside the body for as long as a week and may be spread through contact with bodily fluids that have remained on surfaces.
There are several factors that can increase your risk of hepatitis B infection. These include:
The symptoms of hepatitis B can be signs of many different illnesses. Before arriving at a hepatitis B diagnosis, a doctor must first conduct blood tests to check for the presence of HBV-specific antibodies and antigens, specialized immune proteins that help the body fight infection. The type of immune proteins present in the body can reveal whether or not a patient is infected, and to what extent the body was able to fight off the infection.
According to the CDC, the following are the immune proteins associated with HBV infection:
Individuals acutely infected with HBV will be:
Individuals chronically infected with HBV will be:
Individuals immune to HBV infection due to hepatitis B vaccination will be:
Individuals immune to HBV infection due to natural HBV infection will be:
Symptoms of hepatitis B develop an average of 90 days after exposure to the HBV virus. Some patients, especially children under the age of five and immunosuppressed individuals, are less likely to experience symptoms than others. According to the CDC, the following are the most common signs and symptoms of HBV infection:
The prognosis of hepatitis B depends on several different factors, including the age of the person infected and the ability of the person’s immune system to fight off the infection. The majority of acute HBV cases do not result in severe liver damage; less than 1% of acute hepatitis B cases result in fatality. The CDC reports that 95% of adults infected with HBV make a full recovery and do not progress to the chronic form of the disease. Infants and young children are far more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B, with 90% of infants and 25-50% of children under the age of five going on to develop chronic hepatitis B. 2,000 to 4,000 deaths per year are associated with complications due to chronic HBV infection.
If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, consider the following in your journey through treatment and recovery:
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all infants in the United States and required for entry into many schools, universities, and other institutions. As well, the NIH recommends that all children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the HBV vaccine should also be vaccinated. “Catch-up” vaccination is recommended for children and adolescents who were never vaccinated or who did not get the entire vaccine series.
Hepatitis B is rarely screened for in the general population. However, the US Preventive Services Task Force does recommend regular screening for people at high risk for infection. This includes people who were not vaccinated as infants, those who have infected family members, and those who have recently travel led to a high-risk HBV area.
The hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the contraction of the hepatitis B virus. The World Health Organization reports that the vaccine is 95% effective in preventing HBV infection and the progression of HBV infection to chronic hepatitis and/or liver cancer.
The vaccine is recommended to be administered to all newborn infants within 24 hours of birth (if possible). Vaccination administration is also recommended for adult individuals who have not yet received the vaccination and are planning on travelling to a high risk area.
Recent controversy surrounding a possible link between autism and the hepatitis B vaccine has led some parents to withhold their children from vaccination. However, many medical institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have reported that vaccines do not cause autism. Withholding your child from the hepatitis B vaccination can put your child at risk. The HBV virus is extremely contagious (up to 100x more contagious than HIV) and infection with the virus before the age of 5 is likely to lead to chronic hepatitis.
There is no known cure for acute or chronic hepatitis B. Treatment for acute hepatitis B is focused on supporting the body in its fight against infection, which typically involves symptom-oriented treatment to help reduce nausea, vomiting, fever, etc. Treatment for chronic hepatitis B is focused on the suppression of HBV virus reproduction and prevention of damage to liver tissues.
The Institute for Traditional Medicine of Portland, Oregon reports that the following traditional Chinese herbs can successfully treat liver disease:
There is limited clinical evidence to support the efficacy of alternative treatments for hepatitis B, including the use of traditional Chinese herbs. Do not attempt to treat yourself or a loved one with herbal medicine without first consulting both a certified traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and a trusted medical doctor. Certain herbs can have severe and potentially fatal interactions with other medications. Before beginning any alternative treatment routine, consult with your doctor.
If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms or warning signs of hepatitis B, contact your doctor immediately.
If you are undergoing treatment for hepatitis B and experience any of the following, contact a doctor immediately:
To find a general practitioner in your area, visit www.healthgrades.com
To find a doctor specializing in hepatitis B treatment, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
For more general information about hepatitis B, visit:
For more information about the hepatitis B virus, visit: The World Health Organization – The Hepatitis B Virus
For more information about hepatitis B diagnosis, prevention, and treatment, visit:
For more information about hepatitis B and travelling, visit: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Travelers’ Health
For more information on screening for hepatitis B, visit: The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force
For more information on the controversy surrounding vaccinations and autism, visit: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Vaccine Safety
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