Hepatitis B remains one of those scary terms that you occasionally hear health care professionals use. You also hear about this somewhat mysterious disease in the media from time to time. But just what is Hepatitis B and what should we know about it?
Hepatitis B is a DNA virus that can be found in the blood. It attacks the liver. A name you may run across is HBV, which is short for Hepatitis B Virus. The term, hepatitis, means inflammation of the liver.
What is important to know when considering how HBV is spread is that, as far as we know, it is transmitted mainly via blood contact. To be a little more specific, infection can occur when the blood from an infected person enters the body. Other body fluids can also contain HBV, but usually in much lower concentrations. It is possible to receive HBV via a bite from an infected person. It is suspected that the sharing of toothbrushes or razors might allow for an infection to be contracted.
HBV is also a sexually transmitted disease. The usual increased risk factors for other sexually transmitted diseases apply here as well. For example, promiscuous and homosexual behavior may increase the chances for infection.
People who are hemophiliacs are also at higher risk as well as those who live with a person who has a chronic HBV infection. Having a job that involves contact with blood can also put you at increased risk for obvious reasons. Drug use is another risk factor.
It is possible for your body to fight off an HBV infection. If that happens you will be free of the virus and you will eventually not even test positive for the HBV surface antigen in your blood. An antigen is simply defined as a substance that causes the production of antibodies. And antibodies are those proteins that are used by your body to get rid of antigens. You might have guessed that a blood test can show if a person is suffering from a HBV infection.
Some peoples’ bodies do not fight the infection off completely and they suffer from chronic hepatitis. The virus remains in the body for the long term. This type of person can infect others. Currently, it is estimated that 1.25 million people in the United States suffer from a chronic Hepatitis B infection.
There are vaccines to help prevent a HBV infection and there are drugs that can be used to fight an infection. Interestingly enough, a vaccine can be useful after a possible HBV infection to help prevent the disease from developing. Check with your doctor to get current recommendations on HBV vaccinations.
Often times a Hepatitis B infection can pass without the person even being aware that they had it. Sometimes there are no symptoms. There can also be symptoms ranging from very minor to very serious. On relatively rare occasions, a Hepatitis B infection can cause death, though this happens to a very small percentage of infected individuals.
This article is for information purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or prevent any health condition. Seek the advice of a qualified medical professional if you have or think you might have any health condition, including Hepatitis B.