Dr Prasanna Goel enumerates all what you need to know about Hepatitis B virus
A severe infection of the liver caused by a virus that’s spread through blood and body fluids, Hepatitis B currently infects more than 400 million people across the globe. Various medical studies show that every year Hepatitis B infects 350 million people chronically and 50 million new cases are diagnosed annually.
Hepatitis B Virus continues to be the leading cause of cirrhosis (destruction of the liver) and Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Also, among the people who are chronically infected, 15% to 25% are likely to die of sequela related to HBV infection.
Though, the vaccine for hepatitis B is available, the last few years have witnessed a major increase in overall prevalence of this virus infection.There are four drugs namely: interferon alpha, lamivudine, adefovir, and entecavir, which have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of hepatitis B virus. They are highly effective in decreasing replication and reduce inflammation and fibrosis. Hepatitis B is mainly caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Dr Prasanna Goel explains that the virus usually spreads from one person to another through blood, semen or other body fluids. It is non-contagious and does not get transmitted by sneezing or coughing.
The most common causes of Hepatitis B infection include:
A person is likely to be infected by Hepatitis B infection if he has unprotected sex with someone who is already infected. The virus can be transmitted through an infected person’s blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body
Sharing of needles
Hepatitis B Virus can be transmitted easily through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood, says Dr Prasanna Goel. Thus, it is highly recommended to avoid sharing IV drug paraphernalia as it increases the risk of hepatitis B significantly
Accidental needle sticks
Hepatitis B happens to be a major concerning health issue for health care workers and anyone else who comes in contact with human blood.
Hepatitis B virus is transmitted from pregnant women infected with the virus to their babies during childbirth. However, in majority of the cases, the baby can be vaccinated to avoid getting infected. Dr PrasannaGoel recommends all the women to undergo hepatitis B test before pregnancy.
Depending upon the time duration for which the infection lasts, Hepatitis B can be either acute (Short-lived) or Chronic (long-lasting).
Acute Hepatitis B infection
- Acute hepatitis B infection usually lasts for less than six months
- Majority of the people suffering from acute hepatitis B infection don’t have symptoms
- Your immune system is expected to take a few months to clear acute hepatitis B from the body
- Common symptoms of acute Hepatitis B infection include extreme tiredness (fatigue), mild fever, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
- Majority of the people who get hepatitis B as adults have an acute infection, but it can lead to chronic infection
Chronic hepatitis B infection
- This infection usually lasts for six months or longer
- The risk of developing this infection is directly linked to the age at which one first becomes exposed to the hepatitis B virus
- The person continues to be infected till the time his immune system can’t fight off the infection
- In some cases, chronic hepatitis B infection can also last a lifetime, possibly leading to serious illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver cancer
- The younger you are when you get infected with hepatitis B (especially new-borns or children younger than 5), the higher your risk of the infection becoming chronic
- In some cases, this infection can go undetected for quite a long time. It can only be diagnosed when the person develops a severe liver disease
As a matter of fact, the common signs and symptoms of hepatitis B range from mild to severe. In majority of the cases, they start appearing in one to four months after you’ve been infected. According to Dr PrasannaGoel,there are a few cases in which you could experience them as early as two weeks post-infection. Also, there are some cases in which people, especially young children do not have any symptoms of the infection at all.
Listed below are some of the most common symptoms of Hepatitis B:
- Pain in abdomen
- Dark urine
- Pain in joints
- Issues related to digestion
- Loss of appetite
- Constant discomfort on the right side of the belly under the rib cage (where the liver is located)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
Keeping in mind the severity of Chronic hepatitis B infection, it becomes imperative to keep a check on its symptoms and undergo timely treatment for the same.