Hepatitis B - An Introduction
Hepatitis B is a viral infectious disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus which primarily affects the liver cells. It may lead to chronic liver disease like liver cirrhosis, chronic active Hepatitis, chronic persistent Hepatitis or primary liver cell cancer. Hepatitis B is a global public health problem and an estimated 500,000 people die annually from Hepatitis B Virus-related liver diseases.
Hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV and an estimated 500,000 people die annually from Hepatitis B Virus-related liver diseases.
South East Asia and Sub- Saharan Africa are among the areas of highest prevalence for Hepatitis B infection. Nigeria is super hyper-endemic with about 37% - 40% of its population (64 million Nigerians). About 9% of these infected Nigerians would progress to have either liver cirrhosis or primary liver cell cancer (6 million Nigerians).
Modes of Transmission
Hepatitis B is transmitted by coming in contact with blood and body fluids of infected people. Blood and semen contains the highest concentration of the virus, while saliva contains the least concentration. It is not transmitted by holding hands, sharing eating utensils, kissing, hugging, coughing, sneezing, breast feeding or faeco-oral route. Hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.
People at Risk of Infection of Hepatitis B:
These include: people who require multiple blood transfusion; people who share sharp instruments like syringes, needles, razor blades, clippers; people who indulge in skin piercing practices (tattooing, acupuncture); health care workers; those who work in day care centers; people with multiple sexual partners and children born to Hepatitis B positive mothers.
Incubation period for Hepatitis B is between 30 – 180 days with an average of 75 days.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B
- Loss of appetite
- Body aches
- Dark urine
- Yellowness of the eyes
- Abdominal pain (right upper quadrant pain)
- Joint pains
- Pale stool
- Generalized body itching