Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by a very contagious virus Hepatitis B (HBV). It’s a sexually transmitted infection and more contagious than HIV. Transmissible through bodily fluids and can lead to severe health problems for the affected person. Many may not realize they have been infected since it could be asymptomatic at first but if the infection becomes chronic (lasting more than six months); it can lead to the cancer of liver or cirrhosis, liver failure that leaves a permanent scar on the liver. A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B, there no cure for the condition at present. Taking some precautions can help prevent the spread of the virus to others when you are infected.

Forms

There are two basic forms of hepatitis B; an acute and chronic phase

  • In Acute Hepatitis B, the phase last from several weeks to six month. The host is highly contagious for others at this stage and the immune system will likely clear acute hepatitis B from the body and complete recovery achieved within a few months.
  • In Chronic hepatitis B, the infection lasts six months or longer. The virus remains in the blood and in the sperm, as well as other bodily fluids. The host becomes a carrier of the virus and can pass it on to others. It may last a life time leading to liver cancer and cirrhosis.

 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms ranges from mild to severe. They appear usually one to four months once you have been infected. They include

  • Fever
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Itchiness
  • Joint pain

 Causes & Mode of Transmission

Hepatitis B is majorly caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and it can be transmitted through:

  • Contact with bodily fluids like blood, sperm, seminal fluid, also contact with urine, shit, sweat and /or tears if any of those has traces of blood.
  • Sexual intercourse without condoms
  • Sharing needles or sharp instruments especially ones contaminated with infected blood.
  • Accidental needle pricks. This can occur in a health care setting.
  • Mother to child transmission.

 Risk Factors

This include

  • Having unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple sexual partners, or with someone infected with hepatitis B virus.
  • Sharing needles or other sharp instruments
  • Being a gay
  • Living with someone with hepatitis B infection
  • Neonate born to an infected mother
  • Health care worker

Diagnosis

You can be examined and diagnosed through the following

  • History taking
  • Blood tests
  • Liver ultrasound
  • Liver biopsy

Treatment

You may not need treatment if the infection is acute but you will benefit from rest, proper nutrition and plenty of fluids while your immune system fights the infection in the body. Sometimes, hospitalization is recommended to prevent complications.

In Chronic hepatitis B infection, treatment is required for a lifetime. This will reduce the risk of liver disease and prevents the infection being passed to others. Treatment includes the use of antiviral medications, interferon injections, and if the liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. With a liver transplant, the damaged liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver.

Complications

A chronic hepatitis B infection can lead to serious complications such as

  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney diseases

Prevention.

  • Vaccination for all individuals at risk. The vaccine is given as three or four injections over six months.
  • Know the status of your partner
  • Be cautious on body piercing and tattooing
  • Stop use of illegal drugs as infected needle may infect you
  • Use protection and a new one during sexual intercourse.