Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and can be caused by many factors. Hepatitis B is a particular inflammation of the liver caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and can be potentially life-threatening. This infection can range in severity from mild to severe. Mild forms (acute) tend to last a few weeks, whereas, severe (chronic) forms can last a life-time. Acute hepatitis B infection can lead to chronic infection. Chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and death in some cases.
Hepatitis B is a major worldwide health issue and the most serious kind of viral hepatitis. Some two billion people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus and around 600,000 individuals die every year due to hep B complications. The best way to avoid getting hepatitis B is to be vaccinated against it. The vaccine has been around since 1982 and has been found to be 95 percent effective in preventing the disease.
It is reported that the incubation time for the hep B virus runs about 90 days, however, it can vary from 30 to 180 days. Physicians can usually detect the presence of hep B in the body 30 to 60 days after infection.
How Hepatitis B Is Transmitted
Hepatitis B is transmitted the same way HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is transmitted and that is simply through body fluids such as blood-to-blood contact, seminal fluids and vaginal fluids. It is important to note that hep B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
In developed countries such as the U.S. and Western Europe, transmission generally occurs during young adulthood by sexual activity as well as hypodermics used to inject recreational drugs. On the other hand, developing nations carry a few more transmission risks such as perinatal transmission (mother to infant at birth), early child infections that occur in the home, blood transfusions along with unprotected sex and unsafe injection of drugs.
Fortunately, the hep B virus does not spread due to contaminated water or food. And, it is not spread casually in the workplace. It is, however, an occupational hazard for many health workers.
Hepatitis B Symptoms:
During the acute phase of a Hepatitis B infection, most individuals don’t show symptoms. Symptoms generally appear about 3 months after infection and can run from mild to severe. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, dark urine, stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue and yellowing of the whites of your eyes and skin. Yellowing of the eyes and skin is referred to as jaundice. Most infants and children never develop symptoms.
Current Hepatitis B Treatments
Treatment ultimately depends upon the length of exposure to the hepatitis B virus. If you have been recently exposed (within 24 hours), contact your healthcare provider immediately. It is possible to receive an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin within 24 hours after coming in contact with the virus. This may prevent development of Hepatitis B.
If your physician diagnoses you with an acute hepatitis infection, treatment may not be necessary. An acute infection refers to a short-lived infection that will correct itself. Your doctor will help you to reduce any symptoms you are experiencing while your body takes care of the infection. Vomiting and diarrhea can occur so it’s important to replace fluids. Chances are, you will need to have follow-up blood tests to see that the virus is gone.
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If you have been diagnosed with a chronic hepatitis infection, there are a couple of options. Your doctor may recommend the use of antivirals such as lamivudine, adefovir, entecavir, telbivudine or perhaps interferon-alpha, however, these treatments are expensive. Antiviral treatment helps to slow down the ability of the virus to cause damage to liver cells. If you have serious liver damage, a liver transplant may be suggested.
Currently, hepatitis B has no cure. However, researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute at San Antonio believe a cure could be on the way. Gilead Sciences located in California has developed a new drug that has the ability to destroy liver cells in chimpanzees that are infected with chronic hepatitis B. The drug is known as GS-9620 and it has the ability to stimulate the immune system. The chimpanzee experiments performed at Texas Biomedical Research Institute have paved the way to human clinical trials. The results of the Texas experiments are available in Gastroenterology magazine (May, 2013).
The following video provides a comprehensive overview of the Hepatitis virus:
According to Robert E. Lanford, Ph.D., co-author of the study and researcher at Texas Biomedical Institute, “This GS-9620 therapy represents the first conceptually new treatment for HBV in more than a decade, and combining it with the existing antiviral therapy could be transformative in dealing with this disease.”
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Note: BioNews Texas does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.