Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Chronic Hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis — a condition that permanently scars of the liver. Hepatitis B is diagnosed by taking a blood sample. According to the World Health Organisation, in 2015 Hepatitis B resulted in approximately 887,000 deaths, mainly from cirrhosis and primary liver cancer.

There is a safe and effective vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis B and this should be given to anyone at risk of infection.

People who are infected with hepatitis B should wear condoms for sex and should not share razors, toothbrushes, or any object that has been contaminated with blood.

What causes Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus. People pass the Hepatitis B virus to each other. This happens when you come into contact with another person’s infected:  

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Saliva

Common ways this virus is spread are through:

  • Needle sticks
  • Sharp instruments
  • Shared razors and toothbrushes
  • Unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Sharing needles

New born babies can also get Hepatitis B if their mother has the virus. Infected children can spread the virus to other children if they play together often or if a child has many scrapes or cuts. But body fluids need to come in contact to spread the virus. So just playing next to a friend will not give someone Hepatitis B.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Most patients do not experience symptoms when newly infected. However, some people have acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. A small subset of persons with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death. In some people, the hepatitis B virus can also cause a chronic liver infection that can later develop into cirrhosis (a scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

Anybody living with HIV should be screened for Hepatitis B. There are a number of tests to determine if you currently have hepatitis B, if you have had it in the past and managed to naturally clear the infection – which makes you immune to future infection – or if you are immune due to vaccination.

Hepatitis B sufferers should limit how much alcohol they drink, and those with liver damage should avoid alcohol altogether. Not smoking and cutting down or stopping recreational drug use are also important for overall health. link

  • Eat a balanced diet including vegetables, fruit and wholegrains.
  • Get regular moderate exercise.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol and drug use.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Find ways to reduce stress.