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Hepatitis B: All You Must Know About It

It is another article on the Hepatitis series and this time, we would be discussing Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a very infectious and chronic disease that affects the liver. It is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It causes acute as well as chronic infections.

It causes scarring on the liver, liver failure and also cancer of the liver. It is a DNA virus, with small irregular features just like HIM, and it is in no way related to Hepatitis A or hepatitis C virus. It is very infectious perhaps more infectious even than the HIV virus.

This virus has the ability to resist and persist in infected cells allowing it the ability to easily replicate thereby causing chronic conditions such as liver failure. Approximately over 2,000 people die of Hepatitis B every year. These disease presents in two stages namely:

The ACUTE STAGE of Hepatitis B:

This is the stage in which the infection is still in a new level or new stage. This means that in this stage, the individual may not even experience any symptom until about 4 months later. This disease has the ability to hide itself but in most cases of acute Hepatitis, the infection will resolve itself in weeks at most months.

But in some people although in a smaller number, this disease becomes a very severe and life-threatening form of acute hepatitis known as fulminant Hepatitis. This form won’t resolve itself and it has the ability to become chronic.

The CHRONIC STAGE of Hepatitis B:

It is a more severe and more life-threatening stage of the Hepatitis B virus. At this stage, the virus has fully developed the ability to resist in its infected cells and therefore it never goes away completely. This occurs after 6 months of the individual having the infection.

Here are a few things that are very essential for you to know about this infection;

  1. Hepatitis is a very common infection that is seen in Asia, Africa, China, the Philippines and the middle east. Almost 10% of the population usually develops the Chronic Hepatitis B.
  2. Hepatitis B is considered a leading cause of liver cancer deaths around the world and also the second leading cause of General cancer deaths across the globe.
  3. Symptoms don’t generally show and symptoms at the initial stage of this disease. This is because the disease can last for up to 6months in the body without giving off any symptoms.
  4. Symptoms usually begin with the general and usual non-specific ones such as General body weakness, tiredness and maybe fever. The person might also experience nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Symptoms then gradually becomes very severe with presentations such as jaundice, dark or brown-colored urine, yellowing of the sclera, body itching and severe pain in the right upper abdominal region.

  1. Hepatitis B is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis and also hepatocellular carcinoma globally. According to statistics, about 300-400 million people are suffering from Hepatitis B worldwide.
  2. Infants can get this virus from their mothers even from the womb and majority of these infants almost more than 90% of them proceed to chronic and long-term stage of Hepatitis B.
  3. This infection is transmitted via sexual intercourse(unprotected), intravenous (I.V) drugs, sharing of infected needles with one’s dug partner, homosexuality, blood transfusion, and perinatal transfusion (i.e. the blood transferred from the mothers to their babies).
  4. Most patients with Chronic Hepatitis B are advised to stay away from alcohol. Perhaps, you may be reading this and already diagnosed, please stay away from alcohol because alcohol will only make things worse and decline very fast. This will only increase your chances of getting liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  5. The type of liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B is very different from other type of liver cancers. Other liver cancers start from other cells of the other organs of the body and then it spreads to the liver, but this starts type of liver cancer starts in the liver due to a prolonged damage to the liver.
  6. Cirrhosis is a disease of the liver which occurs when a scar tissue starts to form on the liver. These scarring then becomes so severe so much so that it starts to cause the function of the liver to begin to decline causing the liver to stop functioning all together. This will affect all the internal body processes like blood flow, removal of toxins and poisons, and likewise digestion of essential body nutrients.
  7. Transmission of this infection can be between children too (between the ages of 5 and 7). It is usually common with this age bracket because they tend to share things that would have come in contact with the body fluid of an infected child to a child who is not infected hence this infection is spread easily.
  8. Another easy means of transmission of this virus is through sex. Having unprotected sex with an infected person puts you at a very high risk of contracting the disease. This occurs when body fluids of an infected person such as semen, body sweat, or vaginal secretions enter the body of an uninfected person. This accounts for majority of cases of acute hepatitis B.

For people with multiple sexual partners or men who have anal sex with other men likewise couples who engage in anal sex are more at risk of contracting this disease.

  1. Health workers too who handle blood and other body secretions are prone to contracting this disease if they are not very careful and also if they lack personal hygiene.
  2. There is no specific and single treatment for Hepatitis B. Most times, antiviral drugs are usually prescribed so as to slow down the progress of the disease on the liver. This will limit the pain associated and also the risk of getting liver cancer (the main disease)
  3. According to World Health Organization, a vaccine mostly is in the use of preventing the possibility of getting this disease.
  4. It is important to know that anyone allergic to yeast must not take any anti Hepatitis B medicine. This is because yeast is used in the production of a Hepatitis B vaccine.
  5. Your diet is very important when trying to manage Hepatitis B symptoms. Eat enough of vegetables as this contains chlorophyll which is very essential for liver damage and it is highly beneficial in controlling and managing oxidative stores.
  6. Avoid foods and drinks that are spicy as this will cause an inflammatory effect. Sugary and carbonated drinks are prohibited. Try to eat natural foods and not refined foods.
  7. Avoid over the counter drugs as they have the tendency to worsen and increase liver damage. For people with Hepatitis B, your aim is to reduce liver damage and so taking over the counter drugs will increase your chances of liver damage which is the opposite of what you want,
  8. Always take in water. One of the basic symptoms of Hepatitis B is vomiting and diarrhea. Due to this, body fluid is lost and in order to replenish it, you are to stay hydrated by taking water. This will help you and sustain you ensuring you don’t get dehydrated.
Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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