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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus. It is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids (e.g. blood) infected with the hepatitis B virus. The virus is not transmitted by casual contact or by sharing food/drink.

Hepatitis B is usually a short illness with complete recovery in approximately 90% of cases. However, chronic hepatitis B does occur in 10% of cases. Some patients who have chronic hepatitis B never show liver damage, while some may develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS B

The incubation period of hepatitis B varies greatly from person to person, ranging from a few weeks to 6 months. Some people infected with the virus will not show symptoms for years. When symptoms do show, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Skin rash
  • Jaundice

DIAGNOSING HEPATITIS B

A blood test is required to make the diagnosis.  A liver biopsy may be necessary to determine the extent of the patient’s liver damage.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR HEPATITIS B

Effective antiviral therapy is available for patients with chronic hepatitis B. These medications are very effective at slowing the production of virus and minimizing liver damage.

Taking the medication hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours of exposure to hepatitis B may reduce the illness’s length and severity.

PREVENTING HEPATITIS B

A hepatitis B vaccine is available for long-term protection.

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