Fortunately for adults, most who become infected with hepatitis B do not contract the chronic illness and are easily able to recover. However, for the small amount of adults as well as the majority of children and infants who contract the disease, hepatitis B treatment options are limited and will be a life-long battle.
What is Hepatitis B?
- Hepatitis B just one of the types of the hepatitis virus. Hepatitis B mostly can be found in the higher concentrations of blood and other body fluids like semen and vaginal secretions. The incubation period from infection to signs of symptoms typically takes about six weeks to six months, so it can be difficult to tell if you or your sexual partner is infected. Hepatitis is either self limited or chronic.
- About 90 percent of infected adults will be able to clear the infection, however the remaining 10 percent become chronically infected. Out of all the children infected, 30 percent become chronically infected. Infected infants face the highest risk with 90 percent who end up with a chronic infection, which can be fatal due to liver failure.
- Unlike other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B can survive outside the body for up to seven days.
- Although there is no treatment for acute hepatitis B, the disease should clear on its own over time.
- For chronic hepatitis B, unfortunately there is no cure. Treatment usually involves the use of an antiviral drug. Several antiviral drugs are available on the market with a doctor prescription. Those with chronic symptoms face intense hepatitis treatment including constant monitoring to supervise the progress of the disease. This is necessary to watch the level of progression to prevent liver failure and to protect against hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatitis B Transmission:
- Sex with an infected partner
- Drugs using an injection method like needles or syringes and sharing those with an infected person
- An infected mother can give hepatitis B to her baby during birth
- Direct contact with blood or open sores/wounds of a person infected with hepatitis B can easily transfer the disease
- You can get hepatitis B by sharing certain items with an infected person like toothbrush or razor
- Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted through food, water, eating utensils, breastfeeding, kissing, hugging, hand holding, coughing or sneezing
- Those infected with both acute or chronic symptoms may experience additional flu-like symptoms in addition to severe liver damage (in more serious cases.) These symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting dark urine, clay colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice skin.
- The best way to avoid contracting hepatitis B through sexual contact is to abstain from unprotected sexual contact. Avoid spreading bodily fluids through the use of shared drug needles. The use of a condom may help decrease your chance of getting hepatitis B.
- Because vaccinations are available to prevent catching and spreading the disease, it is important for all children and infants take advantage and get vaccinated.
- Routine screening of all pregnant mothers is recommended. That way, the mother, if she is infected, can seek treatment and protection from passing it on to her unborn baby.
- Any adults who haven't been vaccinated for hepatitis B should make sure to do so to ensure they do not contract the disease.
Sources: http://www.hepb.org, cdc.gov