It is best to practice hepatitis prevention through the use of caution around blood, safe sex and by making sure you get vaccinated to protect yourself against contracting the disease. Fortunately, unlike many other sexually transmitted diseases, there is actually a vaccine available to prevent catching hepatitis B.
What is hepatitis B?
- Hepatitis B is a virus that is found within the higher concentrations of blood and other body fluids including semen and vaginal secretions. The incubation period from the time of infection to when symptoms first occur can last anywhere from six weeks to six months. This can make it difficult to tell if you or your sexual partner is infected. Hepatitis can be self limited or chronic meaning that for some, the disease heals on its own. For others, the disease never goes away.
- According to hepatitis statistics, about 90 percent of infected adults will be able to clear the infection on their own. However the remaining 10 percent become chronically infected. Unfortunately, the percentages of children facing the infection is even higher with 30 percent of children who become chronically infected. Babies are even worse off with 90 percent of infants facing chronic infection, which is often fatal due to liver failure.
- Hepatitis B can actually survive outside the body for a period up to seven days.
- The best way to practice hepatitis B prevention is to abstain from unprotected sexual contact. It is also important to avoid spreading of bodily fluids through the use of shared drug needles.
- Because vaccinations are available to prevent catching and spreading the disease, it is important for all children and infants to take part in the vaccination process to ensure hepatitis prevention.
- Routine screening of all pregnant mothers is also a good idea to make sure if she is infected, she can prevent spreading hepatitis to her unborn baby.
- Sexually active teens and adults should also get vaccinated for hepatitis B to ensure hepatitis prevention if they haven't done so already.
- The vaccine is given in three-part series, which should be followed per doctor's orders to ensure the best hepatitis prevention results.
- The hepatitis prevention vaccine typically continues protecting the body for about 20 years in a health individual.
Hepatitis B Transmission:
- Sex with someone who is infected with hepatitis B
- The disease can easily be spread by sharing drugs using injection tools like needles or syringes with someone who is infected
- The infected mother can give hepatitis B to her baby during the birthing process
- Transmission can occur during contact with blood or open sores/wounds of a person infected with hepatitis B
- Sharing certain items with an infected person like toothbrush or razor can spread the disease
- However, hepatitis B cannot be transmitted through food, water, eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, sneezing or coughing
- Being aware of the symptoms of hepatitis B can help you be careful and prevent spreading the disease if you get it.
- Fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dark urine and clay colored bowel movements. Joint pain and jaundice are also frequently seen symptoms in those with chronic hepatitis B.
- While there is no treatment for acute hepatitis B, the disease should clear on its own.
- Unfortunately for chronic hepatitis B, there isn't a cure. Treatment typically involves the use of an antiviral drug and constant monitoring, which is necessary to keep tabs on the level of progression to prevent liver failure.
Sources: hepb.org, cdc.gov