Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a very infectious virus which affects the liver and can be life-threatening. Long-lasting infection can lead to chronic liver disease and even cancer many years later. It is a worldwide problem. There are thought to be 350 million people who are “carriers” of the hepatitis B virus.

Symptoms

Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever. Occasionally a skin rash and joint pains can occur.

How do you catch hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is spread by contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. It can be spread through unprotected sex, tattoos, body piercings, acupuncture, contact sports or by sharing needles with drug users.

Incubation period

30 – 80 days

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is confirmed by a blood test, which can detect the virus for 30-60 days after infection

Prevention

Using a condom will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of catching hepatitis B through sexual intercourse. Avoid anything which involves piercing the skin unless you are certain that the equipment has been sterilised properly. An effective vaccine is available and is part of routine immunisation programmes in many countries, including the UK

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms, as there is no cure. Antiviral drugs are used in long term infections.