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Your Real Risk for Hepatitis B
In case you did not know there are several types of Hepatitis infections (e.g. A, B, C, etc.). Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease caused by an infection with the Hepatitis B virus. The good news is that there is an effective vaccine available.
Hepatitis B is usually spread from person to person when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected enters the body of someone who is not infected- similar to HIV transmission, so be cautious. Transmission can happen through sexual contact, sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment with an infected individual. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth- again, similar to HIV transmission.
The thing about Hep B is that it can be all-consuming or chronic. Acute Hepatitis B virus infection is often short-term within the first 4-6 months after being exposed to the virus. Acute infection can lead to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that happens when the Hep B virus sets up shop in the body and decides to stay awhile. Chronic Hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, and even death.
Anyone can get Hepatitis B. But like any illness, some of us are more susceptible. Those at greater risk include those who have sex with an infected person, have multiple sex partners, have a sexually transmitted infection, men who have sexual with other men, individuals who inject drugs or share needles, syringes, or other drug equipment are at the top of the risk ladder.
Everyone should be aware of the symptoms of acute Hepatitis B, they can include fever, fatigue or listlessness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, and even clay-colored bowel movements.
If you should test positive for Hepatitis B and it becomes chronic, be sure to be monitored regularly by a physician. It’s critical to avoid alcohol as well because it can cause additional liver damage. And if you are taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, etc. make certain your doctor knows about it since this can create toxicity and potentially damage the liver.
People can become infected with the Hep B virus during:
- Birth (mother to baby during birth)
- Unprotected sex with an infected partner
- Needle-sharing for any reason
- Sharing personal items like razors, toothbrushes, etc. with an infected person
- Contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pateint and provider resources for Hep B. Additionally, there are formal recommendations on who should consider getting the Hep B vaccine. With any health matter, talk to your doctor and get answers.