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WHAT IS HEPATITIS B INFECTION?
It is a condition where the liver is inflamed due to an infection by the Hepatitis B virus. There are many other viruses that can cause hepatitis.
e.g. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis C, EBV, CMV.
HOW IS HEPATITIS B TRANSMITTED?
- Sexual intercourse with an infected person.
- Receiving contaminated blood products.
- Infected mothers can pass it to the child during birth.
- Needle sharing and needle stick injury.
- Sharing contaminated equipment.
e.g. tattooing and acupuncture needles
WHAT IS THE INCUBATION PERIOD OF HEPATITIS B?
- 3 to 6 months after exposure to the infection
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS B?
- It may be without symptoms or may present with severe liver disease.
- If an individual has acute Hepatitis B, he/she will experience malaise, low grade fever, nausea, loss of appetite, dark tea-coloured urine and jaundice.
(yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Some infected individuals do not show any signs and may remain symptom free and ignorant of the infection until they are tested.
WHAT IS SO DANGEROUS ABOUT HEPATITIS B?
- Most people get through Hepatitis B infection without complications.
- 5% to 10% of the population are unable to produce antibodies against the virus and will become chronic carriers.
- Chronic carriers of Hepatitis B are at higher risk of developing liver cancer.
WHAT ARE HEPATITIS B ANTIGENS AND ANTIBODIES?
- Hepatitis B antigens are part of the virus particle itself, they can be detected by blood tests.
- Hepatitis B antibodies are proteins that the body produces when exposed to the virus.
- Antibodies clear the body of the virus and offer long term protection.
HOW IS HEPATITIS B DIAGNOSED?
Hepatitis B can be diagnosed through blood tests.
- Hepatitis B antigen tests: the presence of Hepatitis B antigen means that the person is infected and infectious to others.
- Hepatitis B antibody test: the presence of Hepatitis B antibody means that the person is immune.
- Liver function tests assess the functional state of the liver.
CAN A HEPATITIS B CARRIER BE CURED?
- There are new medications that can help some carriers to get rid of their infection. You should seek advice from a specialist for further information.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM FOUND TO BE A CARRIER?
- Regular check-ups with your doctor to assess the function of the liver and detect any early cancerous changes.
- Sexual partners should be screened for infection.
- Pregnant women must inform their obstetrician so that necessary precautions may be taken to prevent infecting the newborn.
- Inform your doctor and dentist that you are a carrier so that precautions may be taken during procedures.
- Do not share personal items like shavers and toothbrushes as there may be blood contamination.
- Use a condom during sexual intercourse to prevent infecting others.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM IN DOUBT ABOUT MY STATUS?
- Have your blood tested for Hepatitis B.
- Discuss the results with your doctor and vaccinate against Hepatitis B if you have not been infected.
- Hepatitis B carriers do not need vaccination.
CAN I BE VACCINATED AGAINST HEPATITIS B?
- Yes, an effective vaccine is available to protect against Hepatitis B.
- This comprises of a series of three injections.