KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT HEPATITIS B
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis B causes inflammation and swelling of the liver (acute hepatitis) and prevents it from working well. It may persist in the liver, and over many years can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, and liver failure.
How does one get Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B virus is spread by contact with blood or other infectious body fluids. Adults get Hepatitis B through infected blood transfusion, contaminated needles and sexual transmission from a hepatitis B infected partner. Children usually get Hepatitis B from their mother during childbirth. Hepatitis B virus is not spread by air, food, or water.
Who is at risk of having Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is very common in all parts of the world. About 1 to 5 percent of individuals have silent hepatitis B infection that they are not aware of. Certain practices like reuse of needles and syringes in hospitals and clinics in the past, tattooing using unclean and contaminated needles, unregulated and unsafe blood transfusion has increased the risk of transmission of hepatitis B. In view of the high prevalence of hepatitis B, everyone should get tested for hepatitis B atleast once in his or her lifetime.
Is the Hepatitis B test done during visa medical in Dubai?
Most people think that all residents in Dubai are checked for hepatitis B during visa medical. This is not true. Hepatitis B testing is done only on specific categories of workers such as food handlers, housemaids, restaurant workers and nannies. In fact, people who have hepatitis B can actually work in Dubai if they are applying for categories of visa other than the ones stated above.
What are the phases and symptoms of Hepatitis B infection?
Infection with HBV can cause both short-term (acute) disease and long-term (chronic) disease. Patient with acute HBV infections get symptoms such as loss of appetite, weakness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), and dark urine. The acute phase usually lasts 2-8 weeks and most patients recover completely. Few individuals develop a severe form of acute infection and can die as a result of liver failure. Some adults and almost all children who get infected during birth go on to develop chronic HBV infection. These individuals often do not feel sick for many years. With progression of disease, liver failure develops and patients develop swelling of the legs (edema), fluid in the abdomen (ascites), vomiting of blood, and mental confusion.
What are the long term consequences of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B damages the liver slowly over a period of 20-30 years. About 20 percent of patients with untreated hepatitis B progress to liver cirrhosis which is scarring of the liver. Once cirrhosis develops patients are at a risk of developing liver failure.
Are patients with Hepatitis B at risk of developing liver cancer?
One in 20 people with hepatitis B will develop liver cancer. The risk is more if patients have liver cirrhosis. Risk also depends on the amount of virus in the blood. Patients with chronic hepatitis B should regularly do ultrasound scans to detect small liver cancers at any early stage. Small cancers can be effectively treated.
How is Hepatitis B diagnosed?
Hepatitis B is easily diagnosed by simple blood tests. A blood test can determine whether a person is infected or not. It is also possible to know the amount of hepatitis virus in the blood. Depending upon the amount of virus in the blood, treatment can be planned.
What should you do if you are diagnosed to have Hepatitis B?
- Talk to your doctor whether you need treatment for Hepatitis B.
- Get advanced tests to determine the amount of virus in the blood (Hepatitis B virus DNA PCR).
- Take only the medications recommended a qualified liver doctor (Hepatologist).
- Do not take any form of Herbal drugs.
- Avoid alcohol completely.
- Ask all your family members including spouse, siblings and children to get tested for Hepatitis B.
How is Hepatitis B treated?
Most patients who develop acute hepatitis B infection recover on their own. Patients with chronic hepatitis B infection and those with hepatitis B related cirrhosis need specific medicines, which act against the hepatitis B virus. Treatment depends upon the amount of Hepatitis B virus in your blood. This can be determined by checking Hepatitis B virus DNA PCR in the blood. Some commonly used medicines are Entecavir and Tenofovir.
What is the best way to stop the spread of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection. The hepatitis B vaccine is given in 3 doses over a period of six months. Now a days all children are being vaccinated at birth. People of all age groups can take vaccine.