What’s in this article

  • What is hepatitis B?
  • What causes hepatitis B?
  • Is hepatitis B contagious?
  • Treatment and prevention

 

What is hepatitis B?
The CDC estimates that 350 million people worldwide are infected with the virus. It is a viral disease that attacks the liver which can cause both acute and chronic liver disease. People who are immune deficient are more likely to develop the chronic version of hepatitis B. According to the Mayo Clinic, having chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis — a condition that permanently scars the liver.

 

What causes hepatitis B?
In order to understand whether the disease is contagious, we need to first understand what causes the disease. Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus, which is 100 times more infectious than the HIV virus. According to the Liver Directory, the hepatitis B virus can spread from mother to unborn child, through unprotected sexual contact with a person with active HBV, through intravenous drug usage, and unsanitary tattoo and piercing conditions. It should also be noted that razors, tweezers and toothbrushes should not be shared with an infected person as this can pass on the virus as well.

 

Is the disease contagious?
So we have learned that the virus is contagious and precautions should be taken if you feel like you are regularly exposed to situations where you may contract the virus. It is only contracted through contact with the blood, it cannot be contracted through kissing, hugging or sharing food. It is possible to contract the virus through a blood transfusion, however, in Western countries, the chance is now very low. If you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992 it is important to get tested for hepatitis, especially hepatitis C as blood screening was not in place before this date.

 

Treatment and Prevention
If you suspect that you may have contracted the hepatitis B virus then you can request a blood test from your doctor that will confirm or deny this. If you suspect you may have contracted the virus in the last 24 hours then it is important to act quickly as an injection may prevent the virus from spreading. If you have contracted hepatitis B your doctor may prescribe you antiviral drugs although the body is often able to fight the virus on its own.

 

A hepatitis B vaccine is available for those who wish to get it. The vaccine is usually administered 3-4 times over a six-month period. The vaccine works by injecting a small amount of the disease, however, you cannot contract the disease from doing so.  The vaccine is said to last for 5 to 7 years, recent research suggests that due to immunological memory it will last a lifetime.

 

Always ensure you practice safe sex and do not engage in unprotected sex. When getting tattoos or piercings always ensure you choose a place that is sanitary and that follows the health code.

 

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References

Mayo Clinic
Liver Directory

Centers for Disease Control