Hepatitis B

Injection needle with Hepatitis B text

About 296 million people are living with Hepatitis B and new infection annually is put at 1.5 million. (WHO 2019).

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus, it can lead to life-threatening conditions like cancer of the liver and cirrhosis. According to the world health Report, in 2019 about 820 000 people died as a result of complications of hepatitis B. 

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Most people do not show symptoms when infected with the virus but those with acute conditions do show certain symptoms.

  • The yellowness of the skin and the Eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark urine
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

How is Hepatitis Transmitted?

Hepatitis is transmitted through the following ways;

  • Sexual intercourse with multiple partners 
  • Reuse of contaminated needles on multiple persons
  • Needlestick injury mostly in health centre settings
  • Contact with infected blood or body fluid like saliva, semen, menstrual and vaginal fluid.
  • Mother to child transmission during birth or breastfeeding. 

How is Hepatitis B Diagnosed?

Since all hepatitis viruses cause infection to the liver and hence the same symptoms, to determine if the causal virus is hepatitis B, blood samples would be taken to the laboratory to be tested.

How can Hepatitis be Treated?

There is no specific treatment for Acute hepatitis B however, most treatments are aimed at easing discomfort. Drugs that reduce vomiting and diarrhoea are used while at the same time replacing lost fluid and maintaining nutritional balance. Drugs like Paracetamol and Acetaminophen should be avoided at this stage.

Chronic Hepatitis B on the other hand can be treated with oral antiviral drugs like;

  • Tenofovir 
  • Entecavir 

Patients diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis would need to take these drugs for life in other to prevent cirrhosis or liver cancer.

How can Hepatitis B be Prevented?

Like every other viral and sexually transmitted disease, Hepatitis B can be prevented by;

  • Avoiding multiple sex partners.
  • Avoid sharing needles and untreated piercing objects especially those used in tattooing.
  • Pregnant women in the pre-natal stage can make sure they are tested for hepatitis B, so measures can be taken to prevent mother to child transmission.
  • Also infant vaccination as soon after birth and the completion of the three doses in record time can protect children up to 20 years or even for life.
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