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:
- Mild fever
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Skin rash
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.