Beware of Hepatitis B Infection
Recognized as a global health problem, hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that can lead to both acute and chronic disease. It is estimated that around two million people worldwide have been infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) with around 350 million chronically infected and around 50 million cases diagnosed annually. HBV also remains the leading cause of liver diseases such as cirrhosis (destruction of the liver) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Symptoms And Progression
Usually a person at the acute stage, does not exhibit any symptoms. However, in some people having acute illness, symptoms may include yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark coloured urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, and abdominal pain.
In severe cases, the person can become comatosed but this is not very common. In chronic hepatitis B infected people, liver-related complications like vomiting of blood (hematemesis), black tarry stools (melena), loss of consciousness (hepatic encephalopathy), fever [because of low immunity], distension of abdomen (ascites) and swelling of the legs (pedal edema) is observed.
On an average, it takes about six months for the virus to clear on its own. If the infection still persists, the person is said to be affected with chronic hepatitis. The infection can be exacerbated if the individual consumes alcohol or has a coinfection of HIV.
There are routine blood tests available that can be done in any reputed laboratory
Modes Of Transmission
- In areas of tow prevalence of HBV infection, the transmission is more commonly via unprotected sexual intercourse, IV drug abusers or occupational exposure to blood or blood products like in the case of paramedical workers.
- In underdeveloped countries, reuse of medical instruments, contamination of multiple dosing vials and reuse of disposable needles also contribute to the risk of infection.
- Contamination of dialysis equipment is also a source of transmission, it isolation of Infected patients and strict adherence to infection control measures are not practiced.
- Percutaneous routes of exposure include transmission of blood or blood products, contaminated health related paraphernalia or needle sticks and IV drug users.
Treatment for Hepatitis B infection depends on the stages of the infection. If one is at an acute stage, the doctor may suggest adequate rest and good nutrition to help the patient recover better. However, il one is at a chronic stage, treatment options that lessen the chances of a liver disease and prevent the infection from spreading may have to be sought. These include antiviral medications, interferon alla – 2b (Intron A) and liver transplant.
Hepatitis B virus infection is a potent killer, but the right in formation and right steps towards prevention can keep this deadly virus at bay.