Hepatitis B: Its Closer Than You Think


Hepatitis B virus is an infection that causes liver disease or inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is swelling that occurs when tissues of the liver become injured or infected. Inflammation can cause organs to not work properly.

Most adults who get it have it for a short time and then get better, 90% clearing the virus completely. This is called Acute hepatitis B. Sometimes the virus causes a long-term infection, called Chronic hepatitis B seen in approximately 10% of infected cases. Over time, it can silently damage your liver without producing any symptoms; hence you may not know about it.

Unlike adults who can clear the virus spontaneously, Babies and young children infected with Hepatitis B virus are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B (90%). But as long as you have the virus, you can spread it to others.

How its spread?

Spread of this virus happens inadvertently as you may not be aware about it.

Routes of transmission/spread are through contact with blood and body fluids of an infected person:
• Blood to blood contact, i.e. needles or other medical equipment which is contaminated with infected blood, infected blood being spilt onto a wound & most importantly blood transfusion.
• Having sex with an infected person.
• 10 – 70 % women who are hepatitis B positive transmit the virus to their children.
• A human bite from an infected person.
• A human bite from an infected person. .
• Tattooing, ear piercing.
• Haemodialysis Machine.

What are the symptoms?

Hepatitis B is a silent infection. Sometimes, in acute stage person may have the following symptoms:
1. A short mild flu-like illness
2. Feeling ill and tired
3. Vomiting, diarrhoea and Weight loss
4. Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) and
5. Pale stools and dark urine.
However chronic Hepatitis B is often a SILENT KILLER, there are no symptoms until person has cirrhosis of liver with complications. This happens only in the advanced stage of disease when patient will experience swelling of feet, abdomen, jaundice, vomiting blood, confusion, weight and appetite disturbances.

How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?

1. Blood Test that Includes:
• LFT ( Liver function test)
• Hepatitis B Surface antigen (HBsAg)
• Anti – core IgM (IgManti - HBc)
• Hepatitis B Surface Antibody (HBsAb or anti – HBs )
• Hepatitis B Envelope Antigen (HBeAg)
• Hepatitis B Envelope Antibody (Anti-HBe or HBeAb)
• HBV DNA (Qualitative + quantitative)
2. Ultrasound of the Liver
3. Liver Biopsy: It is removal of small piece of tissue from the liver using a special needle. The tissue is examined under a microscope to look for inflammation or liver damage.
4. Fibroscan: It can be done instead of liver biopsy to assess the degree of damage to the liver.
If you are exposed to Hepatitis B virus? What should you do?
If you know you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus, call your doctor immediately. Receiving an injection of Hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hrs of coming in contact with the virus may help protect you from developing hepatitis B. The Hepatitis B vaccination consists of three injections and you must have all three doses for long lasting protection against the virus (0, 1, 6 months).

How to prevent Hepatitis B from spreading?

• Do not share needles used to inject drugs, hormones, steroids & vitamins
• Do not donate blood or organs.
• Cover any open wounds or cuts.
• Use of barriers and condoms will help reduce risk of sexual transmission.
During pregnancy it is important to test for hepatitis B and C infection due to risk of transmission of infection from mother to baby. Make sure tattoo and piercing equipment package is opened up in front of you. Hepatitis B vaccine

What should you do if you are living with a family member who is Hepatitis B positive?

See a Liver specialist, Make sure you get your blood test done for HbsAg. If negative then you should get the complete course Hepatitis B vaccine which will offer lifelong protection and prevent spread amongst family members.

Can Hepatitis B infection be treated?

Yes, there are effective antiviral medication (entecavir, tenofovir) available to be taken orally which help to suppress the viral load and hence prevent progression of liver disease and complications. You must see a Liver specialist to discuss various treatment options.


Please Note:If hepatitis B is left untreated, it can cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

      jan 15th, 2016


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