Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). According to Rotimi Adesanya, Child and Public Health Physician, a hepatitis B infection can result in either an acute infection or a chronic infection.
When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, it is called an “acute infection” (or a new infection). Most healthy adults infected do not have any symptoms and are able to get rid of the virus without any problems. Some are however, unable to get rid of the virus after six months and they are diagnosed as having a “chronic infection”. A simple blood test can diagnose an acute or chronic hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis B is a global public health threat and the world’s most common liver infection. It is up to 100 times more infectious than the HIV/AIDS virus. It is deadly because the hepatitis B virus attacks and injures the liver. Two billion people, basically one in three people, have been infected worldwide.
Seeking medical attention if one doesn’t feel well or if one is uncertain about whether or not they have been infected with hepatitis B virus is of great importance.
A simple hepatitis B blood test can easily diagnose whether one has an infection. Testing is the only way to know for sure if one is infected.
Hepatitis B is called a “silent infection” because most people do not have any symptoms when they are first infected. Thus, they can unknowingly pass the virus to others and continue the silent spread of hepatitis B.
The common symptoms are fever, fatigue, unexplained weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, loss of appetite, mild nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, pale or light-coloured stools and dark-coloured urine.
Serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention are severe nausea and vomiting, yellow eyes and skin (jaundice), bloated or swollen stomach.
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. This can most commonly occur in the following ways: direct contact with infected blood, unprotected s*x, use of illicit drugs, needles that are contaminated or not sterile, from an infected woman to her newborn during pregnancy, tattooing, acupuncture and even nail salons are other potential routes of infection unless sterile needles and equipment are used.
In addition, sharing sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, earrings and body jewellery can be a source of infection. Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted casually. It cannot be spread through toilet seats, doorknobs and sneezing, coughing, hugging or eating meals with someone who is infected.
Everyone should be tested; if they have not been infected and have not received the hepatitis B vaccine, then they should also start the vaccination immediately. In addition to vaccination, there are other simple ways to help to stop the spread of the virus.
These simple ways include washing hands with soap and water after any potential exposure to blood; use of condoms with multiple s*xual partners, non-direct contact with blood and bodily fluids.
Also clean up blood spills with a fresh diluted bleach solution (mix one part bleach with nine parts water), cover all wounds carefully, avoid sharing sharp items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes and earrings or body rings. Discard sanitary napkins and tampons into plastic bags, use new, sterile needles for tattoos and acupuncture.
All these will help to greatly reduce hepatitis B occurrence.