What is Hepatitis B Virus?
Hepatitis B is a blood-borne
or sexually transmitted disease which can cause serious health problems. About
300,000 new cases of hepatitis B occur each year in the United States. And even
though a person infected with this virus may not show any signs of infection,
they can unknowingly pass it on to others.
Hepatitis B is one of several viruses that can attack and damage the liver,
a critically important organ in the upper-right side of your abdomen. Hepatitis
B is passed by infected body fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and
saliva. The virus can be spread through sexual contact or by contact with the
blood of an infected person, during childbirth, or when drug abusers share needles.
Health care and childcare workers are also at risk. Others at risk include
anyone who has had a sexually transmitted disease, men who have had sex with
men, anyone with multiple sexual partners, anyone who has been on dialysis,
anyone living with someone with hepatitis, anyone with a tattoo, or anyone who
has served time in prison.
The classic symptoms of hepatitis include fatigue, lost appetite, nausea, jaundiced
skin or eyes, dark urine, upper-right sided abdominal pain, and muscle aches.
Most people who get hepatitis become immune to it after the disease runs its
course and then they can no longer pass it onto someone else. However, 10%
of infected people can develop chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis or hardening of
the liver, or liver cancer.
Hepatitis B causes unique problems for pregnant women: they face the risks
of hepatitis themselves, and can pass the virus to their babies. About one in
every 500 to 1,000 pregnant women is known to have hepatitis when she gives
birth, but many more asymptomatic pregnant women may unknowingly be infected.
Fortunately, there is a blood test for Hepatitis B. As a result, many doctors
now recommend that hepatitis B virus testing should be part of routine prenatal
care. High risk individuals should get tested whether or not they are pregnant.
Other good news is that a
vaccine is available to protect people from becoming infected with hepatitis
B virus. Many doctors recommend vaccinating all babies after birth, and several
states now require vaccination before kindergarten. Anyone who is at risk of
becoming infected should also be vaccinated.
information, click here.
Created: 8/14/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 6/30/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.