According to the World Health Organization there are approximately 257 million people living with hepatitis B, which they define as hepatitis B surface antigen positive. It is also known as HBV. In 2015 alone, hepatitis B caused over 887,000 deaths. The virus attacks the liver and untreated it can cause chronic and acute diseases like liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
How is Hepatitis B Transmitted?
Hepatitis B is spread through several different methods, including perinatal transmission (mother to child) in areas where there is an epidemic. It can also be passed on from infected child to uninfected child, because the virus can live outside of the body for 7 days.
Hepatitis B is also transmitted through seminal fluids, vaginal fluids and saliva. It may be transmitted sexually from person to person and also through the reusing of needles and syringes, medical procedures, tattooing and other procedures where there may be some blood contamination.
What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Symptoms may vary from person to person, with some people not having any symptoms at all. Those that develop acute hepatitis B may experience the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Persistent fatigue
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stools
Chronic liver infection may develop and lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
The World Health Organization states that less than 5% of healthy individuals who become infected by Hepatitis B will develop a chronic infection and 20-30% of those who become chronically infected will develop liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.
The World Health Organization also states that approximately 1% of the 2.7 million people infected with HBV also have HIV.
How is Hepatitis B Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no direct treatment available for acute hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B can my treated with certain medicines such as antiviral agents which can help slow the progress of the cirrhosis and help reduce the likelihood of developing liver cancer. The two most common medications are tenofovir and entecavir.
How is Hepatitis B Prevented?
Prevention through vaccination is key. It is recommended that all children receive a Hepatitis B vaccination within 24 hours of birth. The hepatitis B vaccination will give people more than 90% protection.
To learn more about vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, visit the US. Department of Health and Human Services vaccination information page.
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This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).