WAYS OF TRANSMISSION Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body. People can become infected with the virus during activities such as: Sex, Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes, Birth, Sharing needles and syringes, Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person, Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments.
EARLY SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS B INFECTION About 50% - 70% will not have any symptoms when they become infected with hepatitis B. This illness may include one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Joint pain
Symptoms begin to occur 60 - 150 days after infection and usually last less than one month but can persist for up to six months.
COMPLICATIONS OF HEPATITIS B INFECTION Approximately 25% of those who become chronically infected during childhood and 15% of those who become chronically infected after childhood die prematurely from cirrhosis or liver cancer, and the majority remain asymptomatic until onset of cirrhosis or end-stage liver disease.
The risk for chronic infection varies according to the age at infection and is greatest among young children. Approximately 90% of infants and 25% - 50% of children aged 1 - 5 years will remain chronically infected with HBV. By contrast, approximately 95% of adults recover completely from HBV infection and do not become chronically infected.
DIAGNOSIS A positive test for HBsAg followed by another positive test 6 months later indicates chronic infection.
TREATMENT For acute infection there is no medication available. For chronic infection there are several antiviral drugs available which, if administered early, can keep the disease from progressing into a lethal stage.