Hepatitis B: What it is and How You can Prevent it.
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver by the hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood, open wounds, or body fluids of an infected person. This means you can get it via sexual intercourse, sharing needles contaminated with blood from an infected person, and from mother to child during childbirth.
Hepatitis B is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, with 1-34 million deaths annually. According to a 2017 World Health Organization Report, the incidence of hepatitis B was highest in the WHO Western Pacific Region and Africa. Hepatitis B causes death in 87, 890 people annually in sub-Saharan Africa.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
The initial symptoms a person infected with hepatitis B feels include:
- Jaundice (yellowness of the eye and skin)
- Light-colored stools
- Weakness persisting for several months
- Stomach discomfort
- Abdominal pain
In practice, many people who have hepatitis B may think they have malaria because the symptoms are similar. They may receive treatment without feeling better until they undergo a hepatitis B test.
Complications of Hepatitis B
If left untreated, hepatitis B can lead to:
- Scarring of the liver, called liver cirrhosis
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
- Kidney failure
How Can You Prevent Hepatitis B?
- Get vaccinated! All newborns should receive the hepatitis B vaccine.
You should also receive the vaccine if you:
- Use intravenous recreational drugs
- Have multiple sexual partners
- work in a hospital or healthcare facility
- Work in a crowded community such as a school, military base, jail, or daycare center.
- Have come in contact with blood or body fluid.
Does Hepatitis Have a Cure?
There is no cure for hepatitis B, however, it could resolve spontaneously after a few months in a few adults. In most other people, the infection becomes chronic and it could progress to causing severe complications.
If you have the disease for longer than 6 months, you are a carrier and can spread the disease to other people.
Note: If you are a hepatitis B carrier, do not donate blood, plasma, sperms, organs, or tissue, as these could spread the infection to the recipient.