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Causes and Symptoms of Hepatitis B | 16th August, 2017

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is a leading cause of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

The virus is found in blood and body fluids and is transmitted through access to a non-infected individuals mucus membranes or bloodstream. HBV is a major global health problem, with an annual death toll similar to that of malaria.
For most people, hepatitis B is a short-term illness that causes no permanent damage. For others, it can become a chronic infection that can potentially lead to liver cancer.
HBV infection can be prevented with immunization, and chronic infection can be successfully treated with antiviral medication.
Here are some key points about hepatitis B. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
  • The rate of new HBV infections has declined by approximately 82% since 1991.
  • Up to 2 million persons in the United States have chronic hepatitis B virus infection.
  • Ten distinct genotypes of HBV (A to J) have been identified.
  • Risk for chronic infection is related to age at infection: 90% of infected infants become chronically infected, compared with 2-6% of adults
  • HBV is blamed for at least 5,000 deaths in the US annually
  • The HBV can survive outside the body at room temperature, on environmental surfaces, for up to 7 days
  • HBV is an occupational hazard for health workers
  • It is not uncommon for individuals to remain undiagnosed with HBV until they show signs of end stage liver disease
  • In 1991, universal vaccination of all babies against HBV was adopted
  • Over 1 billion doses of HBV vaccine have been used worldwide. 
Hepatitis B is a virus that can infect and inflame the liver. It is a DNA virus that integrates into the chromosomes (genome) of an individual. HBV is particularly dangerous because it can infect people without them knowing it, and, in turn, those infected can unknowingly pass the virus to others.
Some individuals remain chronically infected with the virus past the initial infection period. For those who become chronically infected, the virus can continuously attack the liver over time without being detected, causing potentially irreversible liver damage.
Causes of hepatitis B
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted in the bodily fluid of individuals with the infection.
Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen or another body fluid from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected, whether it is through a puncture in the skin, a shared needle or the exchange of body fluids.
This can happen through mother to baby at birth, sex with an infected partner, sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment, unsafe tattoo techniques or even from sharing personal hygiene items such as razors or toothbrushes. Unsafe medical practices, such as reusing medical equipment, can also lead to HBV infection.
Hepatitis B is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, sneezing or by means of insects that bite.
The HBV can survive outside the body for at least 7 days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
Symptoms of hepatitis B
Most acute hepatitis B infections occur during infancy or childhood and are rarely diagnosed due to the lack of obvious symptoms. The average time from exposure to symptom onset is 90 days after exposure to the virus has occurred.
When symptoms present, they are flu-like (fever, joint pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting) and can last anywhere from several weeks to 6 months.
Other possible symptoms of acute HBV infection include:
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Jaundice (yellow tinge of the skin and eyes).
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Mawuena Workartey/ Ghanahospitals.org

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