Hepatitis B

Chronic Hepatitis B

Chronic hepatitis B affects the liver and is caused by hepatitis B virus. It is the commonest form of chronic viral hepatitis and is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. Approximately 250 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis B.

Acute versus chronic


Hepatitis B virus causes acute hepatitis; some people can fight the infection to clear the virus. If, however, the virus remains after six months, it can lead to a lifetime of chronic infection. Over a long period of time, this could cause serious liver problems including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure, and even liver cancer. About 25% of adults who have chronic hepatitis B during childhood die from related liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Transmission


The hepatitis B virus can be transmitted through blood or other body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid and saliva. Most people with chronic hepatitis B infection were exposed to the virus from their mother at childbirth or in infancy. There is more likelihood of hepatitis B becoming a chronic or lifelong infection when a person is exposed to the virus at birth or infancy. Other ways that hepatitis B can be transmitted include through sexual intercourse, sharing needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment; or from direct contact with the blood or open sores of someone living with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B infection can be prevented with vaccination. The hepatitis B vaccine is given as a series of 3 shots over a period of 6 months. The entire series is needed for long-term protection and in most countries vaccination occurs shortly after childbirth.

Symptoms


Most people with viral hepatitis do not experience symptoms from the infection until serious liver damage occurs, which can take up to 30 years. When symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease and can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light- coloured stools, joint pain, and jaundice. Because it takes so long for symptoms to occur, hepatitis has been described as a “silent killer”.

Testing, diagnosis and treatment

Testing and diagnosis for hepatitis B can only be done through a blood test which will determine whether you are currently infected, previously exposed to hepatitis B in the past and not infected, or whether you are immune to hepatitis B through vaccination.

If you have hepatitis B you need to be monitored for the development of liver disease which is most often done through a clinical or health service. About 25% of people with a chronic hepatitis B infection will require treatment which has been proven to stop progression of liver disease and is usually for the rest of the person’s life.”

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The Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP), established in October 2010, is a multidisciplinary body advocating public policy reforms aimed at reducing the burden of viral hepatitis in Asia-Pacific.

WHA Member

CEVHAP is proud to be a member of the World Hepatitis Alliance since September 2019.

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