There are over a million carriers of the hepatitis B virus in the United States and an estimated 200,000 people contract this serious liver disease each year.
disease is more infectious than AIDS and is transmitted through infected
blood and other body fluids (seminal fluid, vaginal secretions, breast
milk, tears, saliva and open sores). However, in approximately 30-40
percent of cases the method of transmission is unknown.
can protect yourself against hepatitis B with a safe
and effective vaccine. To be fully protected three injections are
required; the second one a month after the first injection and the third
one six months later. Hepatitis B vaccination shots are recommended
for all newborns, infants and teenagers. Shots may be given at any age.
Most cases of hepatitis B occur among sexually active young adults,
therefore, teenagers are an important group to be vaccinated. This vaccine
provides immunity for most people for at least five years and possibly
People who are exposed to blood or body fluids of an infected person are at risk. You may also be at risk if you -
Ethnic or racial groups with a high rate of infection are: Blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
How To Avoid Becoming Infected
B Is Not Spread By Casual Contact Such As:
Don't Know How They Become Infected
3) How Do You Know You Have Hepatitis B?
Most people who get hepatitis B have no recognizable signs or symptoms. The only way the disease can be positively identified is through a blood test. Many people are surprised to learn when they have donated blood that they test positive for hepatitis B.
Hepatitis blood tests are not usually included in routine blood tests done when having a physical examination.
Some People Have Symptoms That Mimic The Flu
5) What Age Groups Are At Risk For Chronic Hepatitis?
10 percent of adults, 25-50 percent of young children (under 5 years)
and 70 -90 percent of infants infected with hepatitis B who are unable
to clear the infection from their bodies in six months, become carriers
or are chronically infected with hepatitis B.
HBV carrier is someone who has had hepatitis B in their blood for more
than six months. Children who are infected under age five have a 25-50
percent chance of becoming lifelong carriers. A carrier usually has
no signs or symptoms of HBV but remains infected with the virus for
years or for a lifetime and is capable of passing the disease on to
others. Sometimes HBV carriers will spontaneously clear the infection
from their bodies, but most will not. Although most carriers have no
serious problems with hepatitis B and lead normal healthy lives, some
carriers do become sick because they are at significantly higher risk
than the general population for liver failure or liver cancer. If you
are carrying the virus you should not donate blood, plasma, body organs,
tissue or sperm.
carrier is infectious even though he/she has no signs or symptoms and
should never have unprotected sex unless the other person is immune
to hepatitis B or has been vaccinated. Remember the virus is present
in blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva. Annual liver function tests
and a test for liver cancer are recommended. Alcohol can harm the liver
and should be avoided. Drugs, even over-the-counter ones, should be
used under a doctor's supervision as they too may cause liver damage.
A well balanced diet and regular exercise are important.
Anyone who has not cleared the virus after six months and has elevated liver enzymes is considered to have chronic hepatitis.
This means the virus is infecting living liver cells and damaging them. Scar tissue, called cirrhosis, replaces the damaged cells. The build up of cirrhosis causes the liver to become hard and bumpy and distorts the blood flow through this vital organ. This causes a back pressure in the veins bringing nutrients from the stomach and intestines. Varicose veins form in the stomach and esophagus that can burst causing a hemorrhage resulting in vomiting blood or passing black stools. About 5,000 people die in the United States each year related to hepatitis B, 1,000 die of hepatitis B related liver cancer.
your doctor yearly or more frequently as recommended. Tell your doctor,
dentist and sex partner you are a carrier of hepatitis.
there is only one approved treatment for hepatitis B called interferon
alpha 2-b. About 15-20 percent of those treated will have a lasting
response. Many other medications and types of therapy are being tested
to find more effective and less toxic treatments.
to 90 percent of pregnant women who are carriers of hepatitis B can
pass it on to their newborns at delivery. All pregnant women should
be tested for hepatitis B and all babies should be vaccinated at birth
to protect the child from being infected and to provide immunity for
at least 10 years. |
several different hepatitis viruses, A,B,C,D & E. They all attack
the liver and can cause liver cell injury. Once infected and recovered
from one of these infections you will not get it a second time.
Many doctors have the vaccine available, but public health departments will vaccinate children (any uninsured children under 18) free and will charge a nominal fee for anyone including older adults.
Small children need smaller doses of vaccine so the shots will be less expensive than adults. Prices vary for the 3 shots.
B vaccine is only for people who are not infected chronically. Once
infected, the vaccine is of no use. This does not apply to people acutely
exposed, infected newborns or those infected by needle sticks.
The American Liver Foundation is the only national voluntary health organization dedicated to preventing, treating, and curing hepatitis and all other liver and gallbladder diseases through research and education.