What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis b virus
(HBV). It ranges in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few
weeks (acute), to a serious long-term (chronic) illness that can
lead to liver disease or liver cancer. About 90-95% of people who
are infected are able to fight off the virus so their infection
never becomes chronic. Only about 5-10 percent of adults infected
with HBV go on to develop chronic (ongoing, long-term) hepatitis b,
which can be very serious. Chronic infection is one that lasts
longer than 6 months. Once the infection becomes chronic, it may
never go away completely.
What are Symptoms?
About 50% of people infected with hepatitis b have no symptoms. If
symptoms do occur, they usually develop within 30-180 days of
exposure to the virus. Some of the symptoms are often compared to
those of the flu virus.
- Appetite loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itching parts of the body
- Dark colored urine
- Pale colored stool
- Jaundice - A condition in which the skin and the whites of the
eyes turn yellow in color
How is hepatitis B transmitted?
Hepatitis B is transmitted though blood and infected body fluids.
This can occur through direct blood-to-blood contact, unprotected
sex, unsterile needles, and from an infected mother to her newborn
during delivery. Other possible routes of infection include sharing
sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes and earrings.
Hepatitis B is not transmitted casually through sneezing, coughing,
hugging or eating food prepared by someone with the virus.
The Hepatitis B Surface Antigen test is a blood test used to
detect the hepatitis b virus. This test is the earliest indicator
of the presence of acute infection. It is also indicative of
chronic infection. In other words, the surface antigen test will
detect an active infection, whether acute or chronic. The earliest
this test should be taken is 6 weeks after a possible exposure.
Although the is no cure for the virus, there are several treatment
options. There are 4 medications currently approved by the FDA for
treatment of active hepatitis b infection. There are 7 medications
currently approved by the FDA for treatment of chronic hepatitis B.
They do not provide a cure, however, the significantly decrease the
risk of liver damage by slowing down or even stopping the virus
What are the early symptoms of hepatitis
Many people with newly acquired hepatitis B have no symptoms at
all, or they may be very mild and flu-like - loss of appetite,
nausea, fatigue, muscle or joint aches, mild fever, and possibly
jaundice (yellowish tinge to the skin).
What is the difference between acute and chronic
hepatitis b infection?
When you are having symptoms for the first time, this is called
acute hepatitis. Acute hepatitis lasts 6 months or less. Most
people recover from the infection and have no long-lasting
problems. Hepatitis B can become an illness that lasts a long time.
This is called chronic hepatitis B. It lasts six months or longer.
Chronic hepatitis occurs when the liver has been damaged from the
acute illness and can't recover. Chronic hepatitis develops in
approximately 10% of people who have hepatitis B.
If I have been received the vaccination for hepatitis b,
will it cause the test to be positive?
Depending on the test, a vaccination can cause a positive result.
A positive result for the hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs)
test can indicate immunity to hepatitis B from the vaccination.
Will the hepatitis B vaccine protect me from hepatitis A
and hepatitis C?
No. Hepatitis A and hepatitis C are different diseases caused by
different viruses. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A, but there is
no vaccine for hepatitis C at this time.