Hepatitis B: General Information

Hepatitis B is a viral disease that can be transmitted both via sexual coitus, as well as other contacts. The virus attacks the liver and causes a liver inflammation with a possibility of liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Hepatitis B virus has the two stages: acute or chronic stage.

Today, hepatitis B is one of the most common STDs with 5-10% of the adults being chronically infected in East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In comparison, less than 1% of the adult population in Western Europe and North America suffer from this STD.

As compared to HIV, this virus is 100 times more infectious. Around 70% of the infected persons are not aware of this fact. Yearly, over seven hundred thousand people die because of the complications from hepatitis B. The transmission can be prevented by a vaccine that has virtually no side effects. Thus, getting vaccinated is recommended for all people and absolutely needed for those persons, who are exposed to higher risk of getting infected.

How Can Person Contract Hepatitis B?

This STD is born by Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can transmit via an exchange of body fluids (seminal, menstrual, vaginal fluids and saliva). It cannot be transmitted through sharing of foods, breastfeeding, kissing, coughing or sneezing.

These are the standard ways for the virus to transmit:

  • Sexual coitus. When no protection is used and when an uninfected person has not been vaccinated, introduction of the blood, saliva, seminal or vaginal secretions from an infected person can result in an infection. Sexual contacts with sex workers or multiple partners can pose a higher risk for an unvaccinated person.
  • Shared use of needles. It is extremely easy for HBV to pass on the needles with a contaminated body fluid. This can happen when drug users share a needle, but can also occur during dental or surgical operations, as well as tattooing and acupuncture (when non-sterile needles are used). Sharing razors or similar sharp utensils can pose a significant risk too.
  • Unintended sticking of needles. Those people, who frequently contact blood, such medical workers and others, are at an extremely high risk.
  • Transmission from the mother to her child. It is possible for an infected mother to pass HBV to her baby during the labor. At the same time, the vaccination of a newborn can assure the formidable protection against such an occurrence.

These practices can significantly increase the risk of being infected with hepatitis B:

  • Avoiding protection, while having sex with an infected person
  • Sharing needles with infected persons
  • Sharing personal items (such as toothbrushes, razors or nail clippers) with an infected person

What Are The Symptoms of Hepatitis B?

These are the most common symptoms of hepatitis B:

  • Elevated temperature
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Diminished appetite or total loss of the same
  • Weight loss with no natural explanation
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Pale color of stool
  • Pain in the abdomen

While most of the infected people show no symptoms during the acute stage of hepatitis B, others may experience nausea and vomiting, extreme fatigue and darkening of the urine.

A small portion of people may have a liver failure, followed by the death. In some cases, when the virus causes the chronic disease, it can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer.

90% of the infected adults can recover with no medication needed within one year.

Even when an infected person shows no symptoms of hepatitis B, he or she can still transmit the virus to other people.

How is Hepatitis B Tested And Diagnosed?

Only a laboratory test can deliver the bullet-proof diagnosis. Today, tests are used to monitor the health conditions of an HBV-positive person and determine whether they have an acute or chronic disease.

The blood or serum tests seek to determine, whether antigens HBsAg can be found in the patient’s blood. If they are found, this means that the person is either undergoing an acute phase or chronic disease phase.

In the event that HBsAg antigen can be seen in the blood for over 6 months from the first time it was found, the person is identified as having a chronic disease.

Interpreting the test results is not that easy and it’s not always in black and white. This is why, the patient should only consult with a HBV specialist.

Is Hepatitis B Curable?

99% of the infected persons undergo the acute phase with no medication needed. The virus is purged from their bodies spontaneously and they might not be aware of it. 1% of the infected persons might need a medical intervention.

At the acute stage, the person should make sure that he or she stays hydrated and replaces the fluid, lost because of the diarrhea and vomiting. The person should avoid alcohol and smoking, since they have an unfavorable effect on the liver.

Should the disease turn into a chronic ailment, hepatitis B should be treated with various antiviral agents. Enabling to reduce the viral load, these help mitigate cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Should a child have hepatitis B, he or she can have a healthy life with no damage. At the same time, regular visits to the liver specialists are required in order to keep the situation under control.

What Medications Can Be Used to Fight Off HBV?

HBV can be tackled with the two different types medications: antiviral drugs and interferon.

Among the antiviral drugs, entecavir and tenofovir, are seen as the best options. They are advantageous in that they cost little, have no major side effects and do not provoke drug resistance. However, they can only hamper the virus replication, but no eradicate the virus as such. The infected person will have to continue the medication course throughout their life.

Interferon is an injection, done once a week in order to boost the immune resilience. This helps fight the hepatitis virus. This method is most potent with a lower viral load in place. It costs a lot, so people in financially-constrained regions are not able to obtain this treatment. In some cases, it can eradicate the virus completely. During the treatment, a number of significant side effects can be sustained, so close monitoring is required.

When is Surgery Required?

Whenever a risk of liver cancer or cirrhosis is present, a liver transplantation can be considered. The success of this surgical intervention has been varying.

Chronic stage of HBV might not require any medication. However, the decisions concerning the medication courses and other important issues should always be made only in consultation with a hepatitis B specialist.

Alternative Medications Against Hepatitis B

The natural no-medicine approach seeks to boost the immunity and halt the replication of the virus in the person’s body through the use of herbs. Although the laboratory and clinical researches have proven that some of the herbs or their mixes can be a potent tool against HBV, any decisions concerning the planned course of action should be always discussed with a medical specialist.

Schisandra helps stimulate liver enzymes, boosting its function and conditions. Milk thistle can alleviate liver inflammation, thus fighting against liver cancer and cirrhosis that might have ensued.

An infected person is advised to introduce supplements with B12, C, D vitamins, as well as standard multivitamins.

For those, who are suffering from chronic HBV, vegetables-rich and low-oils diet is advised. These people should stay away from raw fish, as it can contain the bacteria, harmful to the liver.

Staying well-hydrated is of importance with juices, broths and adequate amount of water being on the top of the priority list.

Smoking and alcohol are a hazard as they would put an additional strain on the person’s liver.

Ways to Prevent And Vaccinate Against Hepatitis B

The vaccine is the most effective tool, used to prevent being infected with hepatitis B. It’s completely safe and it’s not possible to get HBV from the vaccine.

In addition to getting vaccinated, these are the recommended to reduce the odds of getting infected:

  • Use protection in sexual activities (condoms)
  • Do not directly contact the blood or other bodily fluids
  • Make sure that sterile needles are used for tattoos, acupuncture, etc.
  • Do not share any personal utensils, such as clippers, toothbrushes, etc.

Vaccine As The Best Solution

Among others, the vaccine is the most potent method against the infection.

If a child is born to a HBV-positive mother, the newborn should be vaccinated within 24 hours from the birth with three doses followed within the 6-month periods.

Those adults, who have an elevated exposure to risks due to their lifestyle or profession, should undergo the vaccination.

In addition, people living together with infected persons, must absolutely get vaccinated.

Consequences of Not Being Treated

No medication treatment and surgery may be necessary both at the acute and chronic stages. However, the chronic stage – when the viral count is not kept under the control – can result in liver cancer of cirrhosis.

Unfortunately, the poorer populations cannot afford the medications needed. In addition, the disease is diagnosed only at a later stage, when any intervention is futile. In more affluent communities, chemotherapy and other practices can prolong the patient’s life.

Hepatitis B: Frequently Asked Questions

Can hepatitis B be cured?

Hepatitis B has the two stages of development: acute and chronic stage. At the acute stage, no intervention is required, while bed rest and supportive measures are advised.

While there HBV has no cure, there is a number of medicines that alleviate the viral load and, consequently, the symptoms in both adults and children. This helps mitigate the risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis.

In what cases should people get vaccinated?

Today, the vaccination is strongly advocated for all infants and children up to 18 years of age.

The babies, born to HBV-positive mothers, should absolutely be vaccinated.

The adults, being exposed to high risks of infection, such as medical workers, travelers to locations with high HBV levels, should also have a vaccine.

In what cases should people abstain from being vaccinated?

The HBV vaccine is safe and effective with no negative side effects observable.

However, if a person has an allergy to yeast or any other components of the vaccine, they should forego the vaccination.

What are the side effects of hepatitis B?

There is a very small amount of people who have serious side effects. The majority of those are afflicted with the chronic disease. The liver cancer and cirrhosis are the main complications that can occur.

In addition, a liver failure and inflammation of blood vessels, kidney-related complications or anemia can sometimes follow up.