Hepatitis B : Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus that spreads through blood and body fluids.It often causes no obvious symptoms in adults and typically lasts for several months without treatment. In children, it often persists for years and can eventually lead to severe liver damage.Hepatitis B is less common in the UK than in other parts of the world, but certain groups are at increased risk. These include people who are originally from high-risk countries, people who inject drugs, and people who have unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners.A hepatitis B vaccine is available to people at high risk for this condition.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B

Many people with hepatitis B will not feel any symptoms and can fight the virus without realizing that they have it.When symptoms do appear, they tend to occur two or three months after exposure to the hepatitis B virus.Symptoms of Hepatitis B include:
  1. Flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, fever, and generalized body pain
  2. loss of appetite
  3. diarrhea
  4. Abdominal (abdominal) pain
  5. Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

These symptoms usually appear within one to three months (acute hepatitis B), although occasionally the infection may last for six months or more (chronic hepatitis B).When to seek medical adviceHepatitis B can be serious, so you should seek medical advice if:You think you have been exposed to the hepatitis B virus - emergency treatment can help prevent infection if given within a few days of exposure
You can go to your local family practice, drug service, urogenital medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual ambulance for help and advice.A blood test can be performed to check if you have hepatitis B or have had it in the past. The hepatitis B vaccine can also be recommended to reduce the risk of infection.

Treatments for hepatitis B

The treatment of hepatitis B depends on how long you have been infected for:
  1. If you have had the infection for a few weeks or months (acute hepatitis B), you may only need one treatment to relieve your symptoms while your body is warding off the infection.
  2. If you have been exposed to the virus in the last few days, an emergency treatment can help stop your infection. 
  3. If you have had an infection for more than six months (chronic hepatitis B), you may be offered treatment with medicines that control the virus and reduce the risk of liver damage.
Chronic hepatitis B often requires long-term or lifelong treatment and regular monitoring to investigate more liver problems.

How Hepatitis B is spread

The hepatitis B virus is found in the blood and in body fluids such as seminal fluid and vaginal fluid of an infected person.It can be spread from a mother to her newborn baby, especially in countries where the infection is common in families (child to child) in countries where the infection is common, by injection and sharing needles and other drug things such as spoons and filters, through sex with an infected person without a condom, through a tattoo, piercing or medical or dental treatment in an unhygienic environment with unsterilized devices, and by sharing toothbrushes or razor blades that are contaminated with infected blood

Prevention of hepatitis B

A vaccine that provides protection against hepatitis B is available for all babies born on or after August 1, 2017 in the United Kingdom. It is also available for people with a high risk of infection or complications.This includes:
  • People with chronic kidney disease
  • prisoner
  • People traveling to a part of the world where hepatitis B is widespread, such as sub-Saharan Africa, East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islandsfamily
  • Families adopting or promoting children from high-risk countries
    People who change their sexual partner frequentlyMen who have sex with menmale and female sex workersPeople who work somewhere, where they run the risk of getting in contact with blood or body fluids, such as nurses, doctors, dentists and laboratory staff
  • Babies from hepatitis B-infected mothers
  • family that are close and sexual partners of someone with hepatitis B
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People who regularly receive blood or blood products and their caregivers
The hepatitis B vaccine will be administered to infants as part of the routine vaccination plan for children and for those at high risk of developing an infection.You do not have to pay for the vaccine if your child is eligible for a routine vaccination vaccine for children or if they were born to a mother infected with hepatitis B. Others have to pay for it.
The vast majority of people who are infected with hepatitis B in adulthood can fight the virus and fully recover within one to three months. Most will then be immune to infection for life.Babies and children with hepatitis B develop more often a chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis B affects around:

  1. 90% of babies with hepatitis B
  2. 20% of older children with hepatitis B
  3. 5% of adults with hepatitis B
Although treatment can help, there is a risk that people with chronic hepatitis B may experience life-threatening problems such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

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