Hepatitis B

Hepatitis is a viral condition in which the liver is inflammed and unable to properly function.

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Hepatitis B Symptoms

While some people who have Hepatitis B may not show any symptoms at all, others may have symptoms like:

  • Jaundice
  • Dark Coloured Urine
  • Pale Stools
  • Fever
  • Prolonged tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Hepatitis B Complications

Hepatitis B is very serious. It can lead to complications like:

  • Acute Hepatitis (episode of liver inflammation)
  • Chronic Hepatitis (permanent liver inflammation)
  • Liver cirrhosis (permanent scarring and hardening of liver)
  • Liver failure
  • Liver cancer

Those who recover completely from Hepatitis B infection become immune to the disease. However, 1 in 10 people who get infected with the virus become carriers. A carrier is someone who carries the Hepatitis B virus permanently in their body. Hepatitis B carriers seldom show any symptoms. However, they can:

  • Spread the disease to others
  • Develop serious liver complications such as those above

Can I get Hepatitis B?

If you have never been vaccinated or do not have antibodies from having a previous Hepatitis B infection, you are at risk of Hepatitis B infection.

The Hepatitis B virus is spread through the following ways:

  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • From an infected mother to her newborn child during childbirth
  • During acupuncture, body or ear piercing and tattooing if the needles used are contaminated with a Hepatitis B infected person's blood
  • Sharing of injection needles among drug abusers
  • Accidental cuts to the skin by a nail clipper, shaving blade or other instruments that are contaminated with a Hepatitis B infected person's blood
  • Direct contact with open sores of an infected person

To minimise your risk of Hepatitis B infection, avoid situations that put you at risk.

How can I protect myself from Hepatitis B?

Get vaccinated. The Hepatitis B vaccination is safe and extremely effective if you complete all three doses:

1st dose: at the appointed date
2nd dose: 1 month after the first date
3rd dose: 6 months after the 2nd dose

Make sure you complete all three doses.

For children, there are also some combination vaccines that contain protection against Hepatitis B as well as other common illnesses. Combination vaccines include other necessary childhood immunisations and are beneficial in that it reduces the number of shots a child must take at one time. Speak to your child's doctor to understand what is recommended for your child.

Regardless of the type of Hepatitis B vaccine you take, you need to complete all of the recommended doses.

Myths vs Facts

Can you get Hepatitis B from eating seafood? Is Hepatitis serious? What’s the difference between Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A? The answers below separate fact from fiction — and outline the different types of Hepatitis.



Myth #1: People Get Hepatitis B by Eating Contaminated Seafood

Fact: Hepatitis B is found in the blood and body fluids of someone with the infection. You can get Hepatitis B by coming into contact with the blood, semen or other bodily fluids from an infected person. This can happen through unprotected sex, sharing needles or syringes, and using unclean equipment at barber shops and tattoo parlours. Additionally, pregnant women can also spread the virus to their babies during childbirth.

Hepatitis B cannot be spread through coughing, sneezing, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing or sharing of utensils. 

Medical professionals are also at risk of Hepatitis B and should follow proper procedures for protecting themselves.

Myth #2: Hepatitis B is a Rare Disease so I Am Not Likely to Come Into Contact With It
Fact: Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. More than one-third of the world's population is infected with the virus; some 350 million people worldwide are chronically infected. This means they have a serious form of the disease that can lead to serious liver diseases and liver cancer. It is important that people who are at risk of Hepatitis B visit their medical professionals to get tested.

However, there are other types of Hepatitis. These are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D, Hepatitis E and Hepatitis G. Both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E can be spread through contaminated food and drinking water. In contrast, Hepatitis B is spread only through blood and bodily fluids.

Myth #3: People with Hepatitis B Know They Have the Disease Because of Symptoms like Yellow Skin or Yellow Eyes.
Fact: Many people with Hepatitis B do not look or feel sick. Thirty percent of the people who are infected with the virus do not show any signs or symptoms of the disease. The only way to know if you have Hepatitis B is to visit your medical professional and take a Hepatitis B blood test.

Myth #4: People with Hepatitis B will get Very Sick and Die From a Serious Liver Disease or Liver Cancer
Fact: About 90 percent of the people infected with the virus have acute infection. This will last for a few weeks or months but the person will recover totally and not have any lasting health problems.

However, about 10 percent of the people infected with the virus will have chronic Hepatitis B. This is the more serious form of the infection and can lead to a serious liver disease and even liver cancer. Some 15 percent to 25 percent of the people with chronic Hepatitis B infection will eventually die from the virus.

Myth #5: Hepatitis B Vaccines Will Prevent People with the Virus From Getting Sick
Fact: The Hepatitis B vaccine is effective only for people who have not been infected with the Hepatitis B virus.

Many countries have access to effective Hepatitis B vaccine. Often in these countries, babies are given the vaccine at birth.

People who have been infected need to visit their medical professionals and learn about the best treatments for controlling the virus.

Difference between Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B

HEPATITIS BHEPATITIS A
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

  • Jaundice
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Pale stools
  • Fever
  • Prolonged tiredness
  • Poor appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
     
Similar to Hepatitis B
 *Note: Hepatitis A is seldom serious and the body recovers within 3 to 4 weeks
TRANSMISSION

  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Carrier or an infected mother to her newborn during childbirth
  • Use of contaminated needles
  • Accidental cuts to the skin by shared razors or nail clippers
  • Direct contact with open sores of an infected person
     

  • Contaminated food
  • Shellfish
  • Contaminated water or milk
  • Close personal contact with things handled by an infected person
  • Flies
  • Contact with an infected person's faecal matter
PREVENTION

  • Vaccination, which consists of 3 doses
  • Avoiding multiple sex partners
  • Having protected sex
  • Avoiding the sharing of needles, cutting instruments such as blades and razors with people who may be unsure of their Hepatitis B status
  • Going for reliable operators for acupuncture, body piercing or tattooing, and ensuring they sterilise and dispose of items used for the procedures
     

  • Good hygiene
  • Washing hands with soap before and after meals
  • Properly cooking shellfish before consumption
  • Good food handling practices​
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Hepatitis B

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