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HEPATITIS B


This post attempts to discuss a life threatening disease
which is often taken for granted in this part of the world. Everyone knows about HIV but are simply not bothered about an equally if not more dangerous disease which is hepatitis B.

"Hepatitis"  which means inflammation of the liver could be caused by toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections. Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Hepatitis B infection can be either “acute” or “chronic.”

"Acute" hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the hepatitis B virus. This acute infection can but does not always lead to chronic infection.
 
"Chronic"  hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body.

Hepatitis B is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. Hepatitis B is not spread routinely through food or water.
People can become infected with the virus during activities such as:
- Birth (spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth)
- Sex with an infected partner
- Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
- Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
- Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments

Many people with chronic hepatitis B virus infection do not know they are infected since they do not feel or look sick. However, they still can spread the virus to others and are at risk of serious health problems themselves.

Vaccination is a very important part of health care anywhere in the world as prevention they say is better than cure. Hepatitis B vaccine is a very safe vaccine. Most people do not have any problems with it but a vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a serious reaction.
It is recommended for :
- All infants, starting with the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth
- All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated
- People whose sex partners have hepatitis B
- Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship
- Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
- Men who have sexual contact with other men
- People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
- People who have close household contact with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus
- Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
- People with end-stage renal disease, including predialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
- Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
- Travelers to regions with moderate or high rates of hepatitis B
- People with chronic liver disease
- People with HIV infection
- Anyone who wishes to be protected from hepatitis B virus infection. 


In any case,  any adult who is at risk for hepatitis B virus infection or who wants to be vaccinated should talk to a health professional about getting the vaccine series.

For those who are already infected with the virus,  even if you are on medications to suppress the virus,  you can still pass hepatitis B on to other people. It is therefore highly important that you take some sensible precautions to avoid the spread of the infection such as not sharing toothbrushes,  needles or razors with other people. You should also avoid having unprotected sex with someone including anal and oral sex, unless you are sure they are immunized against hepatitis B.
Let us join  hands to make the world a safer and healthier place. 

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