Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. Many people who are infected by HPV show no symptoms, but these generally develop in 30 to 180 days after exposure to the virus. The symptoms are mostly comparable to those of influenza, which is why many people do not automatically realize that they may have been infected by the virus.
The HPV is known as a DNA virus that reproduces in liver cells. The virus does not cause direct damage to the liver. On the other hand, its presence causes the body to release an immune response in trying to get rid of the virus, which causes the inflammation and may cause serious injury to the liver cells.
1. Symptoms: Symptoms include loss of appetite, a general sense of fatigue, vomiting and nausea, itching all over the body, pain over the liver, and jaundice or a condition wherein one’s skin turns yellow. Urine also becomes dark in color, similar to tea or cola, whereas stools turn pale-colored, like clay.
2. Types: The disease can come in two possible phases, acute and chronic. Acute cases are newly acquired infections, with the patient typically noticing symptoms in one to four months after getting exposed to the virus. Roughly 90% to 95% of adults who contract the disease are generally able to fight off the virus and get the infection cured. The small percentage of people can develop a more severe and sometimes fatal form of acute hepatitis known as fulminant hepatitis. Meanwhile, chronic hepatitis B typically goes on for more than 6 months. Studies show that when an infection becomes chronic, it has a chance of never going away completely. Approximately two-thirds of these patients are chronic carriers, which means that they do not develop symptoms themselves but can transmit the virus to other people. The smaller third develop what is known as “active” hepatitis, which is a serious liver disease. Many people believe that cirrhosis, a condition of the liver, is caused by too much alcohol consumption, but it can actually also be caused by hepatitis B infection in a chronic active state.
3. Transmission: If you know someone who has the disease, the way that the virus is transmitted is another important thing you need to know. The virus can be transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person, his semen, or other body fluid. Also, it can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby. Having sex with someone who has hepatitis B will also expose you to the virus, as well as using that person’s toothbrush or razor. Needles, tattoos, or piercing with tools that had been exposed to an infected person also puts you at risk.
4. Treatment: Interestingly, the infection sometimes goes away on its own because the liver has an innate capacity to heal itself. As an organ in charge of filtering toxins out of a person’s blood, the liver is indispensable in human life; it also helps in digestion and also produces substances that control bleeding and fight infections. This is why it is important to treat inflammation as soon as possible, because long-term inflammations can cause permanent damage. Hepatitis B is not usually treated unless it comes in the chronic form, during which doctors typically treat it with drugs to help slow or keep the virus from causing damage to the liver.
Thankfully, there are also vaccines available to protect a person, including children, from the disease, as they are the most prone for chronic infection. The widespread use of the vaccine has reportedly led to a 75% decrease in the number of newly diagnosed cases of the disease over the past ten years. After vaccination of healthcare workers and other high-risk workers, a blood test is usually conducted to make sure that antibodies have been produced in response to the vaccination. In the absence of such production, a revaccination may be necessary. Although hepatitis B can still be a fatal disease, advancements in technology have made it easier to detect it at an early stage as well as to get treatment as early as possible.