Hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by various viruses. There about seven recognized viruses responsible for the infection of the liver:–hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Of these A,B, C, and E are of greatest concern to health practitioners. Collectively all the types of hepatitis kill about 1.4 million people globally every year. However not much is known by the public about the disease and hence not much is done in the way of prevention on personal level.
Some time ago we discussed Hepatitis A, today and tomorrow we shall discuss Hepatitis B.
More than 2 billion people world-wide have been infected by the hepatitis B virus and of that figure about 350 million are chronically ill. Also about 1 million carriers die of liver cancer or liver cirrhosis yearly.
The disease is common in Africa, parts of South America, Asia and parts of North America.
1. What Causes Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is caused by Hepatitis B virus, it is the most infectious of the hepatitis viruses and can survive up to 7 days in a dried state.
2. How Does Hepatitis B Spread?
Human beings are the main reservoir of the infection. Spread is through blood, blood products, semen and vaginal fluids. Consequently, the disease can pass from one person to the other through blood transmission, sexual intercourse be it homosexual and heterosexual.
The disease spreads from mother to child during child birth by the mother’s blood passing into the blood of the baby or by the baby swallowing the blood of the mother, any of these could happen during child birth.
It can also spread through the use of contaminated sharp objects. Thus spread is common within a family especially in crowded homes, sharing tooth brushes, razors, towels and bath brushes promote spread.
The hepatitis B virus is present in the saliva, semen and vaginal fluids of infected persons, thus infection can spread through kissing or by sexual intercourse.
3. When Do You Suspect You May Have Hepatitis B?
The symptoms and signs of hepatitis Binclude low-grade fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, dark urine, upper right abdominal pain and yellowness of eyes/skin; suspect Hepatitis especially if someone close to you just had it or is recovering from it.
Incubation period is between 45-160 days. See a doctor immediately if you have the above symptoms.
4. What Can Put You at Risk?
a. Age—infection is highest among children and young adults
b. Occupation—Healthcare workers (laboratory scientists, dentists and surgeons).
c. Life style— drug addicts who inject themselves are at high risk
d. Sexual promiscuity, homosexuality
e. Close contact with an infected person
f. Travels to countries where the disease is very common.
5. Possible Complications of Hepatitis B.
Complications of Hepatitis B infection include Chronic liver infection, liver cancer, liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
Hepatitis B can be prevented in the following ways:
b. Exercising extreme precaution when treating hepatitis B patients.
c. Avoiding the use of common items such as tooth brushes, foot brushes, razors, and towels.
d. Avoiding contact with infected persons.
e. Avoiding the use of unsterilized sharp objects for nose/ear piercing or scarification.
f. Practicing safe sex by use of condoms
g. Desisting from homosexuality.