Hepatitis B Hepatitis B can be prevented with a highly effective vaccine, but this year ten to thirty million people will become infected with the hepatitis B virus. I feel that because this disease is preventable, only knowledge can help reduce the number of people infected. Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. This virus is a blood-borne pathogen. It is one hundred times more infectious than HIV. Hepatitis B is one of the most frequently reported vaccine preventable diseases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This disease is transmitted through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. You can also acquire the disease through sharing needles, toothbrushes, and razors, or if you come in contact with infected blood. For these reasons, the people at the highest risk of contracting the disease are: anyone who is sexually active; health, dental, and emergency workers; adoptive families with children form Asia, Africa, South America, Eastern and Mediterranean Europe (as these areas have a high number of people infected); drug users; and anyone in close contact with someone infected. This is not as scary as it seems, for you cannot contract the virus through sneezing, coughing, or holding hands. A surprising fact about hepatitis B, considering it is preventable, is that one in twenty people are or will be infected in their lifetime.
There are one million people infected in the United States. More than 350 million people worldwide are chronic carriers of the virus. A chronic carrier is someone with the virus in their blood, and can who can pass the disease to others. Fifty percent of those infected with the virus (a.k.a. HBV) do not develop symptoms. HBV is often called the Silent Infection.
Another forty nine percent experience fevers, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Many people think that it is just the flu and ignore their symptoms. Some other symptoms include abdominal pain or swelling, jaundice, dark colored urine or light colored bowel movements. The other one percent develops acute fulminant hepatitis. Of those infected with it, sixty to ninety percent of all cases result in fatalities. It is characterized by fatigue- most often resulting in collapsing, and jaundice- yellowing of the skin due liver malfunctions. There is no medical treatment for hepatitis.
Although, with bed rest ninety percent of those infected will develop antibodies and fight off the disease. If the body fails to fight it off, some (five to ten percent) will develop chronic hepatitis. These people have an increased risk of liver problems, like cirrhosis (hardening of the liver) and liver cancer. Some chronic cases will need liver transplants. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but there are some drugs to help.
Interferon helps to quicken the rates of remission. There are also two drugs that are in the last phase of FDA approval- lamivudine and famciclovir. These are thought to be available toward the end of the year. If you have contracted HBV, you should immediately contact a doctor, and get regular checkups. If you are pregnant you should make sure to tell your doctor so they can protect your baby.
Also, make sure close contacts are vaccinated. And most of all- no alcohol, because it will further damage your liver. There is only one sure way to protect yourself- get vaccinated. The vaccine is very safe and effective. It is in the form of three shots, given over a period of six months.
The shots can be given at a doctors office or at school clinics. One very informative source is The Hepatitis B Foundation. The address is: 700 East Butler Avenue Doylestown, PA 18901 (215) 489-4900 For additional help contact your doctor. Hepatitis B is a very infectious disease, but the most important thing to remember is that it can be prevented with three simple shots. There is no excuse as to why anyone should not be vaccinated!.