Hepatitis is a viral disease that causes acute inflammation of the liver and can devastate a person's health. Hepatitis are of 5 types; hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis D (HDV), and hepatitis E (HEV). Hepatitis B virus belong to the family of hepadnavirus. Hepatitis B virus affects millions worldwide. It has no seasonal trend and no regional boundaries. HBV is present in the blood, semen, saliva, nasopharyngeal washings and vaginal fluids of infected people. A person who is not immune can become infected if he comes in contact with any of these fluids. The virus enters into the body (blood stream) through broken skin or mucous membranes.
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Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted by
*. birth (from an infected mother to her baby).
*. Medical, dental, tattooing or body-piercing instruments that have not be properly sterilized.
*. Sharp hypodermic needle, razor, nail files or clippers.
*. Sexual activity.
Hepatitis B virus kills a carrier silently, a person may not be aware he has the virus and can spread it to others unknowingly. He may remain asymptomatic for many years. Symptoms may start to manifest when the condition has become chronic and this can lead to liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer, and death. People who have the symptoms for more than 6 months are considered as a carrier. A high percentage of people who have had HBV do recover. HBV is not hereditary and there is no evidence that asymptomatic carrier may spread it through casual contact or the sharing of food.
Some common symptoms of hepatitis B virus are:
*. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
*. Light-colored stool
*. Weakness and fatigue
*. Abdominal pain
*. Joint pain
*. Nausea and vomiting
Vaccine is available for HBV. Hepatitis B vaccination is the most effective measure to prevent HBV and it devastating consequences. Early detection and treatment can help ward off damage. Orthotopic liver transplantation may be done for treatment of chronic hepatitis. HBV is 100 times more infectious than HIV, thus it should never be treated with levity.
Who is more at high risk?
High risk persons are the newborn infants to mothers with HBV, health care personnels, organ transplant patients, blood transfused patients, hemodialysis patients, promiscuous persons, institutionalized persons and parenteral drug abusers.
It is not uncommon to see people infected with HBV stigmatized. There are misconceptions that HBV carriers are promiscuous since it can be transmitted through sexual activities. This situation has caused more harm to infected persons and to the society at large. Why so say? People have resulted to avoid being tested for HBV because of fear of discrimination and those who knew they have the virus have concealed it from others. They fear that they will be isolated or may even lose their jobs. With this trend, hepatitis B virus may continue to spread from one generation to another generation. The best way to handle this trend is to inform both carriers and non infected people about practices that might increase the risk of infection or transmission and not needlessly ostracizing anyone.