Hepatitis B: Facts, Figures & FAQs 

Did you know that hepatitis B is the most common blood-borne virus in the world? 

 One out of every 24 people in the world has hepatitis B. That’s roughly 2 billion people, many of whom aren’t even aware they have been infected! In the United States alone, about 862,000 people have chronic hepatitis B. 

You can take steps to protect yourself from hepatitis B and its potential complications, by getting vaccinated. Call us @ 718-DORAL-500 to find out more. 

 

What is Hepatitis B? 

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which can cause cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. 

 

Acute and Chronic Hepatitis B  

Exposure to the Hepatitis B virus can lead to either short-lived infections or long-lasting effects. 

  • Acute: The onset of acute hepatitis B infection can range from 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure. The acute stage of hepatitis B is usually short-lived, lasting between 4 and 6 months. 
  • Chronic: Between 15% and 30% of people who are infected develop chronic hepatitis B, but they won’t show signs or symptoms for 10 or 15 years.  

Those who have hepatitis C often also have hepatitis B—the two viruses are closely related. 

 

Routes of transmission 

Hepatitis B is contagious and can spread from an infected person to another through blood or body fluids (including semen, vaginal secretions, and saliva) 

You are likely to get hepatitis B if you: 

  • Have had unprotected sex with an infected partner (most common).  
  • Have shared injection drug equipment with someone who has HBV. 
  • Have lived in/visited areas where hepatitis B is common (sub-Saharan Africa, Asia). 
  • Are a baby born to an infected mother (It is transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth and breastfeeding). 
  • Have been exposed to Needlestick injury 
  • Exposed to the blood or secretions of an infected person (If you are a healthcare or public safety worker [such as firefighters, dentists, doctors, nurses, or police officers] you may be exposed to an infected person in your line of duty). 

Symptoms 

  • Generalized symptoms of infection include: 
  • Yellow skin and eyes- Jaundice (one of the first signs of hepatitis B) 
  • Dark Urine 
  • Fever 
  • Joint pain 
  • Lethargy 
  • Nausea and Vomiting 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Clay-colored stools 
  • NEWBORNS: Newborns infected with HBV sometimes have symptoms like fever and jaundice (yellowing of the skin due to liver malfunction) at birth. But up to half of the newborns may not show any symptoms until they are 2–6 months old. If your child has any signs or symptoms of hepatitis B infection (weight loss, vomiting, or yellowing skin or eyes), talk to your healthcare provider right away. 

Co-infections 

HIV infection is commonly found in people infected with HBV. Over 2.7 million people (about the population of Mississippi) with HBV infection are also infected with HIV. Conversely, the global prevalence of HBV infection in HIV-infected persons is 7.4%.  

Diagnosis 

Your doctor will examine you and order diagnostic tests that can help diagnose HBV. 

Physical exam– to check for signs of infection like  

  • changes in skin color 
  • swelling in your lower legs, feet, or ankles 
  • tenderness or swelling in your abdomen 

Blood tests- to check the viral load, the duration of infection, the extent of liver damage  

Liver ultrasound– Transient elastography t0 assess liver damage. 

Liver biopsy– a small sample of your liver is taken to check for liver damage. 

Complications 

Chronic HBV infection can lead to severe liver damage. Some of the life-threatening complications are: 

  • Scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).  
  • Liver failure.  
  • Liver cancer.  

People with chronic hepatitis B may also develop inflammation of blood vessels and kidney diseases. 

 Treatment 

Untreated acute hepatitis B infection typically resolves on its own in 6 months. If the symptoms are severe, doctors might recommend nutritional care and fluid replacement. 

Chronic hepatitis B infection is treated with antiviral medications, and interferon injections and in extreme cases the doctors might suggest a liver transplant. 

Prevention 

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a deadly virus that affects your liver. Even if you don’t know it yet, there’s a chance that someone with HBV may have infected you with hepatitis B without your knowledge.  

  • If you’re not sure whether you’ve had the hepatitis B vaccine yet—or if you haven’t received all your shots—it’s important to find out!  

Make an appointment today for your first vaccination because getting vaccinated is the only way to reduce the risk of getting this potentially deadly viral infection.