Be Alert Against Hepatitis B   



Be Alert Against Hepatitis B

 
What you should know about this serious viral disease of the liver. Hepatitis B is a serious viral disease that affects the liver.

While about 50 percent of infected adults may show symptoms in the initial stage of hepatitis infection (acute stage), young children often do not show any symptoms of the disease at all.

The symptoms of acute illness resulting from hepatitis B infection may include:

  • Jaundice

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Joint pain

  • Muscle pain

There may also be pain in the upper right region of the abdomen. In a small percentage of cases, the infection may lead to progressive liver failure.

Silent carriers

Up to 12 percent of infected adults and90 percent of infected newborns may carry the virus in their system for many years without even knowing it. Such carriers of the disease pose a health risk to others by spreading the disease, as well as significantly increasing their own risk of developing hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and primary liver cancer later in life.

It has been estimated that 350 million people worldwide are hepatitis B virus carriers, two million of whom die each year.

In Malaysia, the carrier rate is estimated at 3 to 5 percent of the population, or about one million individuals.

How Hepatitis B spreads

Hepatitis B is found in bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva and semen, of carriers without symptoms as well as those showing symptoms of the disease. It can be transmitted in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Contaminated needles and syringes (either during drug use or through needle stick injuries)

  2. Sexual intercourse (especially homosexual practices)

  3. Mother-to-newborn infection during the birthing process

  4. Breastfeeding

  5. Blood-to-blood contact (through open injuries)

  6. Non-sterile instruments such as those used for body piercing and tattooing

  7. To a lesser extent, sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors.

Prevention

The most effective way of preventing the spread of hepatitis B is through vaccination.

Vaccination is especially important in the following high-risk groups:

  • People exposed to the virus as a result of their occupation, such as healthcare workers, emergency service personnel, police or embalmers. 

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    Happy reading,
    Evelyn



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