Hepatitis B In The United States
In the United States, about 862,000 people have chronic hepatitis B.6 Asian Americans and African Americans have higher rates of chronic hepatitis B than other U.S. racial and ethnic groups.10 Researchers estimate that about half of the people living with chronic hepatitis B in the United States are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.11 Chronic hepatitis B is also more common among people born in other countries than among those born in the United States.7
The hepatitis B vaccine has been available since the 1980s and, in 1991, doctors began recommending that children in the United States receive the hepatitis B vaccine. The annual rate of acute hepatitis B infections went down 88.5 percent between 1982 and 2015.12 In 2017, the annual number of hepatitis B infections rose in some states.13 Experts think the rise was related to increases in injection drug use. Injection drug use increases the risk of hepatitis B infection.
How Long Can You Live With Hepatitis B
Most people who contract hepatitis B during adulthood fully recover within 1 to 3 months.
People with chronic hepatitis B may have a higher risk of developing long-term liver problems, like cirrhosis or liver cancer, which require treatment and may be life threatening.
Keep in mind that the risk of developing chronic hepatitis B is higher for babies and children, especially if they have not been vaccinated against the virus.
Testing For Liver Cancer
Having hepatitis B increases your risk for getting liver cancer, so your doctor may suggest an ultrasound test of the liver every 6 to 12 months. Finding cancer early makes it more treatable. Ultrasound is a machine that uses sound waves to create a picture of your liver. Ultrasound is performed at a hospital or radiology center by a specially trained technician. The image, called a sonogram, can show the livers size and the presence of cancerous tumors.
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How Do People Get The Hbv Virus
Hepatitis B virus is found in the blood of people with HBV infection. It enters the body through blood-to-blood contact.
Reliable blood tests for HBV were developed many years ago. Since blood donors and blood products are tested for HBV, this is no longer the typical means of infection.
In many parts of the world, hepatitis B virus infects more than 8% of the population. HBV-infected women pass the infection to their babies during the birth process. People can also get hepatitis B by sharing needles for injection drug use, through sexual contact with an infected person, by an accidental needlestick with a contaminated needle, or from improperly sterilized medical, acupuncture, piercing, or tattooing equipment.
When To Call The Doctor
- The child has not felt hungry or wanted to eat in the past 24 hours.
- Your childs fever is over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 days.
- Your child has a stomachache.
- Your child vomits more than 2 times in an hour.
- Your child’s skin or the white part of the eyes turns yellow.
- Your child is overly tired for more than 2 days.
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You Can Have It And Not Know It
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus . HBV is far more infectious than HIV and can be prevented by a vaccine. People who have not been vaccinated may be at risk of getting infected.
About 95 percent of adults will recover within 6 months of becoming infected and as a result will develop lifelong protection against it. The remaining 5 percent are unable to clear the virus and will become chronically infected. Chronic hepatitis B infection is treatable.
It is estimated that less than 1 percent of Canada’s population is infected with either acute or chronic HBV. People who are infected before the age of 7 are at a higher risk of developing chronic infection. In 2011, the overall reported rate of acute hepatitis B infection in Canada was 0.6 reported cases per 100,000 people living in Canada.
Why is hepatitis B a health concern?
Many people infected with HBV do not know they have the virus because symptoms can take two to six months to appear and only about 50 percent of people develop symptoms. During this time, they can spread the infection to others. You may not know you have this infection until damage has already been done to your liver. Potential complications from chronic HBV infection include cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and premature death.
Why do I need my liver?
How is hepatitis B spread?
HBV is spread through contact with infected blood and body fluids including semen and vaginal fluid.
Treatment Of Hepatitis B
We must reiterate that if you believe either you or your loved one may be exposed to HBV, you should seek medical attention immediately.
The first thing the doctor will order is a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin . When it is given within 12 hours of exposure, the shot can give you or your loved one short-term protection from hepatitis B infection.
If you have yet to receive a hepatitis B vaccination shot, the doctor will arrange for you or your loved one to be given the vaccine.
The vaccine will give you or your loved one immunity from hepatitis B it is the main source of safeguarding a community from hepatitis B.
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What If I Am Pregnant
It’s recommended that all pregnant women have a blood test for hepatitis B in early pregnancy.
If you have hepatitis B and are pregnant, treatments can reduce the risk of transmission of hepatitis B to the baby.
If you have hepatitis B, it is important to protect others from infection.
Important ways to prevent the spread of hepatitis B include:
- vaccination of all your close contacts
- practise safe sex until your sexual contacts are fully vaccinated and immune
- do not donate blood, organs or body tissue
- do not allow your blood to contact another person
- inform healthcare workers
- if your work involves potential for your blood or other body fluid to spread to other people, discuss your situation with your doctor
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective in protecting against hepatitis B infection, providing protection in 95 in 100 vaccinated people.
In Australia, hepatitis B vaccination is part of the standard immunisation schedule for all newborn babies and infants. It’s also recommended for adults who are at high risk of exposure, people who are immunosuppressed or have other liver disease. People in these risk groups should be vaccinated against hepatitis B. Talk to your doctor about your level of risk and whether hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for you.
If you werent vaccinated against hepatitis B as a child, or if youre not sure whether you are vaccinated, talk to your doctor about whether you need a catch-up vaccine.
Who Should Be Vaccinated For Hepatitis B
All newborns should be vaccinated. Also, people who are under 18 who were not vaccinated at birth should also get the vaccine. Other groups who should be sure to be vaccinated are those in certain high-risk categories, such as:
- People who have more than one sexual partner.
- Men who have sex with men.
- Adults with diabetes.
- Sexual partners of infected people and people who share households with infected individuals.
- People who are exposed to blood and other bodily fluids, including healthcare and public safety professionals, and people who work in jails and other places taking care of people who cant take care of themselves.
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Treatment For Chronic Infection
Treatment for hepatitis B does not cure hepatitis B but works to delay or even to prevent complications from developing, like liver damage and ‘scarring’ of the liver . People with chronic hepatitis B usually need treatment to stop or to reduce the activity of the virus, so limiting liver damage. A liver specialist will usually advise on when treatment may be beneficial. There are two types of treatment currently given:
- Interferon. This medicine is similar to a substance produced in your body, which is also called interferon. It works to fight infections by boosting your immune system. Interferon is usually given as an injection each week.
- Antiviral medicines. These work by stopping the hepatitis B virus from multiplying in the body. They include lamivudine, adefovir, tenofovir, and entecavir. Your doctor will discuss these in more detail with you, as the medicine used can vary between people. A combination of antiviral medicines is sometimes used.
Treatment with medicines is usually continued for many years.
Side-effects with these medicines can occur. You will be monitored regularly while you are taking treatment, which includes blood tests. Some people need to change their medicines, or take a lower strength, if they have troublesome side-effects. Also, in some people, resistance can develop to their treatment medicine, which means that it does not work so well. If this happens then it is likely you will have to change the medicine you take.
How Is Hepatitis B Spread
You can become infected with hepatitis B through exposure to blood, semen and other bodily fluids of an infected person. You can get the infection by:
- Having unprotected sex.
- Sharing or using dirty needles for drug use, tattoos or piercing.
- Sharing everyday items that may contain body fluids, including razors, toothbrushes, jewelry for piercings and nail clippers.
- Being treated medically by someone who does not use sterile instruments.
- Being bitten by someone with the infection.
- Being born to a pregnant woman with the infection.
Hepatitis B is not spread by:
- Kissing on the cheek or lips.
- Coughing or sneezing.
- Hugging, shaking hands or holding hands.
- Eating food that someone with the infection has prepared.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Getting Hepatitis B
Due to the way that hepatitis B spreads, people most at risk for getting infected include:
- Children whose mothers have been infected with hepatitis B.
- Children who have been adopted from countries with high rates of hepatitis B infection.
- People who have unprotected sex and/or have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.
- People who live with or work in an institutional setting, such as prisons or group homes.
- Healthcare providers and first responders.
- People who share needles or syringes.
- People who live in close quarters with a person with chronic hepatitis B infection.
- People who are on dialysis.
What Are Clinical Trials For Hepatitis B
Clinical trialsand other types of clinical studiesare part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.
Researchers are studying many aspects of hepatitis B, such as
- progression of hepatitis B and long-term outcomes
- new treatments for hepatitis B
- prevention of reactivated or worsening hepatitis B in people receiving cancer treatment
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What Do I Need To Know About Having Hepatitis B
If you have chronic hepatitis B, getting the right medical care can help you stay healthy. Taking good care of your liver is important. Talk with your doctor before you take any prescription medication, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, or nutritional supplements to make sure they wont hurt your liver. You should also stay away from alcohol, because drinking can damage your liver.
How Do Doctors Treat Hepatitis B
Doctors typically dont treat hepatitis B unless it becomes chronic. Doctors may treat chronic hepatitis B with antiviral medicines that attack the virus.
Not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs treatment. If blood tests show that hepatitis B could be damaging a persons liver, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines to lower the chances of liver damage and complications.
Medicines that you take by mouth include
A medicine that doctors can give as a shot is peginterferon alfa-2a .
The length of treatment varies. Hepatitis B medicines may cause side effects. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of treatment. Tell your doctor before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
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Risk Factors Of Hepatitis B
The risk of developing hepatitis B will increase if you or your loved one:
- Have unprotected sex.
- Live or care for someone with chronic hepatitis B.
- Receive treatment from someone who does not use properly sterilised equipment.
- Provide treatment to someone, where there is a high likelihood of direct exposure to body fluids.
- Work or live in institutional facilities, such as prisons or hospitals.
- Travel to areas with a high risk of HBV infection.
Note that having any of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop hepatitis B.
How Is Hepatitis B Transmitted
Hepatitis B is spread in several distinct ways: sexual contact sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment or from mother-to-child at birth.
In the United States, in 2018, injection drug use was the most common risk factor reported among people with an acute HBV infection, followed by having multiple sex partners. Less commonly reported risk factors included accidental needle sticks, surgery, transfusions, and household contact with a person with HBV infection. In the United States, healthcare-related transmission of HBV is rare.
Mother-to-child transmission of HBV is especially concerning, because it is preventable. An estimated 25,000 infants are born to mothers diagnosed with HBV each year in the United States, and approximately 1,000 mothers transmit HBV to their infants. Without appropriate medical care and vaccinations, 90% of HBV-infected newborns will develop chronic infection, remaining infected throughout their lives. Up to 25% of people infected at birth will die prematurely of HBV-related causes. For this reason, the standard of care for pregnant women includes an HBV test during each pregnancy so that the appropriate steps can be taken to prevent HBV-positive mothers from transmitting the disease to her infant.
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How To Help Stop The Spread Of Hepatitis B
There are several things you can do to help stop the spread of this disease. Please follow these instructions until your doctor tells you the child with hepatitis is completely well:
- Good hand washing by all family members must be done. Hands should be washed using soap and warm water before meals, after using the bathroom and before preparing or serving food.
- Wash your hands after caring for your child. You may have come in contact with the hepatitis B virus from such things as changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, or exposure to blood.
- Wear disposable gloves when handling blood . Wash your hands after removing the gloves.
- Hepatitis B can be spread by sexual activity. Not having sex is the best way to keep Hepatitis B from being spread sexually. If an infected person has sex, a condom should be used every time. Condoms should be used until the doctor says there is no longer any risk of spreading the disease.
- All family members who are not infected should get Hepatitis B vaccines .
Acute And Chronic Hepatitis B
Acute hepatitis B is a short-term illness that happens in the first six months after being infected by HBV. It is estimated that 90 per cent of persons infected with hepatitis B will be able to overcome the infection within six months.
In such cases, these persons also develop permanent immunity to hepatitis B. Generally, most healthy adults and children above five years of age are more likely to recover from acute hepatitis B.
If it persists for more than six months, then the acute condition has become chronic. Chronic hepatitis B lasts longer, maybe even throughout your lifetime, as the virus multiplies in the liver.
Chronic hepatitis B can cause severe inflammation and scarring of the liver, significantly impairing liver functions. There is also a risk of developing liver cancer or other health complications.
To make things more complicated, symptoms may not develop immediately up until you or your loved one develops liver-related complications.
There are also rare instances where hepatitis B recurs in people who have had it before, which also causes further liver-related complications.
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Causes Of Hepatitis B
HBV spreads from exposure to blood, semen or other body fluids. This means direct exposure, so factors like sneezing and coughing do not spread the virus to other people.
Some causes include:
- Unprotected sexual contact with someone who is infected.
- Sharing non-sterile needles/syringes with someone who is infected.
- Using items that were used by/on an infected person, but not properly sterilised .
- Direct contact/exposure to infected fluids and/or open sores/wounds.
- Being conceived by a mother with hepatitis B.
You might notice that some of these causes are very much similar to the causes of HIV, as they both spread by similar means.
Where Can I Get More Detailed Information On How To Live With Hepatitis B
More detailed information can be found in the Canadian Liver Foundations Healthy Living with Viral Hepatitis booklet, including:
- What to expect if you have hepatitis B
- The different types of blood tests and what they measure
- How to prepare for an appointment with your doctor
- What choices to make to prevent additional damage to your liver
- Who needs to know if you have hepatitis B and how to tell them
- How to recognize and deal with symptoms
- How to find financial assistance
- What questions to ask when considering alternative therapies.
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