All about Hepatitis B

iStock_000010763674XSmallEvery year on May 19, we mark World Hepatitis Day, a day when it is necessary to remember the struggle that goes with this disease worldwide.
Hepatitis B is the most common and serious form of liver infection worldwide. Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted directly through contact with infected blood through unprotected sex or intravenous injection of drugs with unsterilized needles. Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a serious threat to global health, much more as 2 billion people worldwide (1 out of three people) are infected with this virus.

Despite the availability of vaccine that prevents infection with HBV, 300-400 million people suffer from chronic infection with HBV virus, which is difficult to detect without a blood test.

Infection with hepatitis B is the tenth cause of death worldwide. Nearly 1.2 million people died in 2007 after complications caused by hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B causes 80% of liver cancer.

Hepatitis B is difficult to detect, in fact 40% of infected adults do not have any symptoms until the time when the infection becomes chronic. If a person shows symptoms, they may appear as symptoms of flu, with eyes and skin yellowing, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, vomiting and joint pain.

How is it diagnosed?
There are several tests, these include a series of blood tests, imaging of the liver or liver biopsy.

How this disease progresses?
The period between exposure to hepatitis B and first symptoms ranges between 45 and 180 days. If the virus remains in the body longer than six months without treatment, the disease enters the stage of chronic infection.
People with chronic hepatitis B are at an increased risk of developing complications of liver disease. On average, at least 15 to 25% of patients with chronic hepatitis B will die from a complication associated with liver disease.

Who is affected?
Anyone can contract hepatitis B, however, unvaccinated persons are at an increased risk of contacting the disease. There are some parts of the world such as Africa, Asia and southern and eastern Europe, where HBV prevalence is above the global average. People who use unsterilized needles or multiple sexual partners with a history of sexually transmitted infections are also subject to greater risk. Among those exposed to the highest risk of infection are the medical staff and children whose mothers are infected with HBV.

How to treat hepatitis B?

There are several treatment options for chronic hepatitis B. The most common type of treatment is antiviral drugs. Early antiviral treatment may help slow the progression of liver disease in persons with chronic infection. The amount of hepatitis B virus in the blood is known as viral load.

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