Hepatitis B is one of the most common liver infections, caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B is dangerous because most people who are infected with hepatitis B are unaware of their infection and can unknowingly pass the virus to others through, blood, unprotected sex, shared or re-used needles and from an infected mother to her newborn baby during delivery.
Symptoms associated with Hepatitis B infection:
The hepatitis B infection is mainly categorized as acute and chronic. Most people, during the acute infection phase, experience symptoms such as, pale and yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. People suffering acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure leading to death. A chronic liver infection can later develop into cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Likelihood of chronic infection:
The percentage of tendency, among infants and children, who get infected and develop chronic infections during the first year of life, is around 80-90%, while for children below the age of 6 years it is 30-50%. Similarly, in case of adults the percentage of otherwise healthy people who are infected as adults and develop chronic infection is below 5% while, the percentage for those who are chronically infected and would develop liver cancer is 20-30%.
Diagnosis of Hep B viral infection:
To differentiate hepatitis B from hepatitis caused by other viral agents, laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis focusing on the detection of the hepatitis B surface antigen HBsAg is essential.
Treatment of Hep B Infection:
Acute hepatitis B, does not have any specific treatment however, comfort and balanced nutrition can help in recovery. Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with drugs, including oral antiviral agents. It can slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival.
Vaccination for Prevention:
The hepatitis B vaccine is the sole way of hepatitis B prevention. It is recommended that all babies receive the hepatitis B vaccine soon after their birth, followed by 2 or 3 doses later to complete the primary series.