What is hepatitis B?
- It is an infection where the liver is inflamed due to an infection with the hepatitis B virus. There are many other viruses which may cause hepatitis (hepatitis A, hepatitis C, EBV, CMV…).
How is hepatitis B transmitted?
- Sexual intercourse with an infected individual
- Transfusion of contaminated blood
- Infected mothers can transmit the infection to their child during delivery.
- Sharing of syringes or needles or being stung by infected needles
- Share contaminates surgical equipment: for example instruments used for tatooing and acupuncture needles.
What is the incubation period of hepatitis B?
- 3 to 6 months after infection
What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B?
- The disease can be asymptomatic or can present with a severe disease of the liver.
- An individual with acute hepatitis A can feel:
- general discomfort
- loss of appetite
- brown urine
- jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)
- Some individuals can show no signs or symptoms and ignore that they are infected until they are tested.
Why is hepatitis B so dangerous?
- The majority of individuals with hepatitis B have few complications.
- However, 5 to 10% of the population is unable to produce antibodies against the various and will become (chronic) carriers.
- (Chronic) carriers of hepatitis B have a greater risk of developing liver cancer.
What are the antigens and antibodies of hepatitis B?
- The antigens of hepatitis B are a part of the viral particle. These antigens can be detected with blood sampling.
- The antibodies of hepatitis B are proteins produced by the body when it is exposed to the virus.
- Antibodies eradicate the virus and enable long-term protection.
How is hepatitis B diagnosed?
- Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by doing blood tests:
- The antigen of hepatitis B: its presence signifies that the individual is infected and that he/her can contaminate others.
- The antibody of hepatitis B: its presence signifies that the individual is immune (because specific antibodies have been produced).
- Liver function tests enable to assess the activity of the liver.
Can hepatitis B be cured if we are a (chronic) carrier?
- Drugs are available which enable some (chronic) carriers to get rid of the infection.
- You should consult a specialist (infectious diseases, internist) to get more information.
What must I do if I am found to be a (chronic) carrier of the infection?
- Regular follow-up with your doctor is necessary to measure the functional state of the liver and to detect effectively any cancerous change.
- Sexual partners should do regular screening tests of the infection.
- Pregnant women must inform their obstetrician so that preventive can be taken to avoid infecting the newborn.
- Inform your doctor and your dentist if you have hepatitis B so that precautions can be taken when undergoing procedures.
- Do not share personal things such as shavers, toothbrushes….as they may be contaminated by infected blood.
- Use condoms when engaging in sexual intercourse to avoid infecting others.
What must I do if could be infected?
- Do a blood test to screen for the presence of the virus.
- Discuss the results with your doctor and vaccinate yourself if you are not infected.
- (Chronic) carriers of hepatitis B do not need to be vaccinated.
Can I be vaccinated against hepatitis B?
- Yes, an effective vaccine is available to protect yourself against hepatitis B.
- It requires a series of three spaced-out injections.
Source of information: here