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What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).
How common is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B infections have dropped dramatically in the US since the development of the hepatitis B vaccine.1,2 In the mid-1980’s, an estimated 260,000 new infections occurred every year in the US. In 2007, an estimated 43,000 new infections occurred in the US.1
How is hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B can be spread through sexual contact or through blood. HBV can also be spread to a baby from an infected mother.
Does hepatitis B cause symptoms?
20% to 70% of infections cause no symptoms.2 When symptoms do occur, they are often confused with symptoms of other diseases.
When they are diagnosed with hepatitis B infection many years later, infected people may not recall the vague symptoms that they experienced when they were first infected with HBV.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B infections may cause symptoms of a flu-like illness, with fatigue and loss of appetite. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin) may also occur. Adults are much more likely to experience these symptoms than children are.2
Are there any treatments available for hepatitis B?
There are several medicines that are used to treat chronic hepatitis B. Unfortunately, these medicines are not effective in many people, cause significant side effects, and can be very expensive.2 Therefore, a doctor must evaluate each person with hepatitis B very carefully before using any of the medicines.
What complications can result from hepatitis B?
Most adults with early hepatitis B will clear the infection. However, in about 5% of adults the infection becomes chronic.2 It is estimated that up to 1.4 million people in the US have chronic hepatitis B.2 The risk of developing chronic hepatitis B infection decreases with age. About 25%-50% of children aged 1-5 years, and approximately 5% of older children and adults will develop chronic infection.3,4
People with chronic hepatitis B are also at risk for many complications. They can develop liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. 15-25% of people with chronic hepatitis B will die from their liver disease.2
Pregnant mothers may spread hepatitis B to their babies. Infants born to infected mothers have about an 80% chance of acquiring HBV infection. About 90% of those infected infants will develop chronic hepatitis B.3,4 It is therefore recommended that all pregnant women should be tested for HBV and managed accordingly if tested positive. This includes treatment of the baby immediately after birth with hepatitis B immune globulin and HBV vaccine.3,4
Can hepatitis B be prevented?
Yes. Sexual transmission of hepatitis B can be prevented by refraining from sexual activity until a person is in a lifelong, faithful relationship with an uninfected partner.
Also, an effective vaccine is available for the prevention of hepatitis B. The HBV vaccine has been successful worldwide in decreasing rates of chronic hepatitis B and subsequent liver cancer. Since 1991, hepatitis B vaccine has been recommended for all infants and children in the US. It is recommended for adults that are at high risk for acquiring HBV.3
Pregnant mothers should be tested for hepatitis B. If the mother knows she has hepatitis B, she should notify her healthcare provider of this infection. By providing early hepatitis B vaccine and immune globulin to the baby, mother-to-child transmission can be prevented.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. Division of Viral Hepatitis. Surveillance for Acute Viral Hepatitis — United States, 2007. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/ss/ss5803.pdf. Accessed December 27,2011.
2. Koziel MJ, Siddiqui A. Hepatitis B virus and hepatitis delta virus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2005:1864-1890.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR 2010;59(RR-12):1-114. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/STD-Treatment-2010-RR5912.pdf. Accessed December 27, 2011.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for identification and public health management of persons with chronic hepatitis B virus infection. MMWR 2008;57(RR08):1-20. Available at:http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5708a1.htm. Accessed: December 27, 2011.
Article from www.medinstitute.org