A man once volunteered to donate blood to his family member who needed blood transfusion. After doing all the necessary checks, the man was told that he was not qualified to do so and was asked to see the doctor for further examination.
On getting to the doctor, he was told he had hepatitis B. He was given medications and managed for six months. After that period, a repeat test was done twice and both came out negative.
The doctor first congratulated the patient, saying his own immune system got rid of the virus, and that his condition was called acute hepatitis.
A hepatitis B infection can result in either an acute infection or a chronic infection. When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, it is called an “acute infection” (or a new infection).
Most healthy adults infected do not have any symptoms and are able to get rid of the virus without any problems. Some are, however, unable to get rid of the virus after six months and they are diagnosed as having a “chronic infection.” A simple blood test can diagnose an acute or chronic hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis B is a global public health threat and the world’s most common liver infection. It is up to 100 times more infectious than the HIV/AIDS virus. It is deadly because the hepatitis B virus attacks and injures the liver. Two billion people, basically one in three people, have been infected worldwide.
Seeking medical attention if one doesn’t feel well or if one is uncertain about whether or not if one has been infected with hepatitis B. A simple hepatitis B blood test can easily diagnose whether or one has an infection. Testing is the only way to know for sure if one is infected.
Hepatitis B is called a “silent infection” because most people do not have any symptoms when they are first infected. Thus, they can unknowingly pass the virus to others and continue the silent spread of hepatitis B.
The common symptoms are fever, fatigue, unexplained weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, loss of appetite, mild nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, pale or light-coloured stools and dark-coloured urine. Serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention are severe nausea and vomiting, yellow eyes and skin (called “jaundice”), bloated or swollen stomach.
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. This can most commonly occur in the following ways: Direct contact with infected blood, unprotected sex, use of illicit drugs, needles that are contaminated or not sterile, from an infected woman to her newborn during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Also, body piercing, tattooing, acupuncture and even nail salons are other potential routes of infection unless sterile needles and equipment are used. In addition, sharing sharp instruments such as razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, earrings and body jewellery can be a source of infection. Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted casually. It cannot be spread through toilet seats, doorknobs, and sneezing, coughing, hugging or eating meals with someone who is infected.
Everyone should be tested; if they have not been infected and have not received the hepatitis B vaccine then they should also start the vaccination immediately. In addition to vaccination, there are other simple ways to help to stop the spread of the virus. These are:
Washing of hands with soap and water after any potential exposure to blood; use of condoms with multiple sexual partners, non-direct contact with blood and bodily fluids.
Also, clean up blood spills with a fresh diluted bleach solution (mix one part bleach with nine parts water), cover all wounds carefully, avoid sharing sharp items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, and earrings or body rings. Discard sanitary napkins and tampons into plastic bags, using new sterile needles for tattoos and acupuncture.
Management of hepatitis B
Have you recently been diagnosed with hepatitis B? Has any of your family members or loved ones tested positive for hepatitis B? You are not alone. In fact, nearly one in three people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus in their lifetimes. Receiving a diagnosis of hepatitis B can be confusing or overwhelming, and may lead to many questions or concerns.
Do you have an acute or chronic infection? When someone is first infected with hepatitis B, it is considered an acute infection. If you continue to test positive for hepatitis B after six months, it is considered a chronic infection.
Pregnancy and hepatitis B:
Babies born to a mother with hepatitis B have a greater than 90 per cent chance of developing chronic hepatitis B if they are not properly treated at birth. It is imperative for pregnant women to know their hepatitis B status in order to prevent passing the virus on to their newborn baby during delivery.
Their new-born must be given two shots immediately in the delivery room: first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, one dose of the Hepatitis B Immune Globulin.
Breastfeeding and Hepatitis B:
The WHO recommends that all women with hepatitis B should be encouraged to breastfeed their newborns. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risk of infection. Since it is recommended that all infants be vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, any potential risk is further reduced.
Adults living with hepatitis B: All patients with chronic hepatitis B infections, including children and adults, should be monitored regularly since they are at an increased risk for developing complications (cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer).
Are you infected with hepatitis B?
Are you protected from hepatitis B because you were vaccinated or have recovered from a past infection? Are you at the risk of being infected with hepatitis B? It is very important to understand your hepatitis B blood test results so that you can receive the right kind of care and follow-up.
Not everyone who tests positive for hepatitis B will require medication. Other tests like liver function test ,abdominal scan and viral load are important. Depending on your test results, you and your doctor might decide to wait and monitor your condition.
If your test results indicate that you would be a good candidate for treatment, then your doctor will discuss the current treatment options with you.
While living with hepatitis B can be difficult and scary at first, the more information and support that you have, the easier it gets. The most important thing to remember is that hepatitis B is a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes and high blood pressure) that can be successfully managed if you take good care of your health and your liver.
You should expect to live a long, full life. Once you are diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, the virus will most likely stay in your blood and liver throughout your life. It is also important to know that you can pass the virus to others, even if you don’t feel sick. This is why it’s so important that you make sure that all close household contacts and sex partners are tested and vaccinated against hepatitis B.
It takes only three shots to protect yourself and your loved ones against hepatitis B. The hepatitis B vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that is recommended for all infants at birth and for children up to 18 years.
The hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for adults living with diabetes and those that can be infected in the course of their jobs, lifestyle, living situations, or country of birth.
Since everyone is at some risk, all adults should seriously consider getting the hepatitis B vaccine for a lifetime protection against a preventable chronic liver disease .To be certain that you are protected against hepatitis B, ask for a simple blood test to check your “antibody titres” that will confirm whether the vaccination was successful.
The Better Life Medical Mission, an NGO, will on Saturday July 29 organise a seminar in Lagos to mark the World Hepatitis Day 2017. There will be health talks, counselling, hepatitis testing and screening, hepatitis B immunisation and opportunity to join hepatitis support group.
Call to participate and register on 09094638795, 08186549147. Remember that every single person can be affected by viral hepatitis and we all have a part to play to achieve elimination.