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What to know about Hepatitis B


Dr. Olayide Jinadu

Dr. Olayide A. Jinadu, Medical Director at Charis-Med Hospital, Lagos, throws light on Hepatitis B, the causes and how it can be handled. GERALDINE AKUTU reports.

What causes Hepatitis B and the symptoms?
Hepatitis B is caused by Hepatitis B virus. The symptoms are usually nonspecific, they could be jaundice (yellowness of the eye), abdominal pain, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), Anorexia (poor appetite), nausea, vomiting, low-grade fever, myalgia (generalized body pain), fatigue.  There could be more severe symptoms like coughing up blood or passing bloody stool or even coma.

Who is at risk and how is it spread? 
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is commonly transmitted via body fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. It can be transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing of sharps and transfusion of unscreened blood. 

People with multiple sexual partners are particularly at risk of this infection; homosexuals too and people who do pedicure and manicure with local nail cutters.

What makes it dangerous?
The fact that it can survive on a non-living (inanimate) object for close to 6months and that it affects the liver.

The liver is saddled with a lot of responsibilities. When affected the Hepatitis B virus attacks the liver, destroying it gradually till the liver is irreversibly damaged.

How long does Hepatitis B survive outside the body?
It can survive outside the body for six months. The incubation period is 1-6 months in the acute phase of hepatitis B infection. Anicteric hepatitis is the predominant form of expression for this disease. The majority of the patients are asymptomatic, but patients with anicteric hepatitis have a greater tendency to develop chronic hepatitis. Patients with symptomatology have the same symptoms as patients who develop icteric hepatitis.

Is there a cure for hepatitis?
No! Not yet, the primary treatment goals for patients with hepatitis B (HBV) infection are to prevent progression of the disease, particularly to cirrhosis, liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

How is it treated and managed?
Series of tests would be requested by your doctor, then placed on antivirals. The lifestyle changes to follow in order to avoid Hepatitis B are abstinence from sexual intercourse for the unmarried, be faithful to your partner, use a condom if you must have sex and stop sharing sharp objects (have your own hair clipper and pedicure set, say no to drugs).

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