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The information provided is intended only as a general guide to provide an overview of the condition. It must not be relied upon for any medical purpose.
Symptoms can vary a great deal from person to person, and the symptoms for various conditions can be identical.
We therefore advise strongly against any self-
The identification and treatment of any condition should be conducted only by a medical professional after due consultation.
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by a virus, and it is extremely common – the NHS estimates that as many as 1 in every 1,000 people have it acutely, and the Hepatitis B Foundation estimates that as many as 326,000 people have it chronically. It causes inflammation and swelling of the liver, and can lead to very significant liver damage. It is transmitted via contact with body fluids such as blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluid, hence its inclusion as a sexually transmitted infection. As with so many other STI's, a great many people do not even realise they have been infected because the symptoms may not develop immediately, and may not develop at all.
Unprotected sex (without using a condom) and the sharing of needles to inject drugs are primary means of contracting the disease, and it is so prevalent because it is highly infectious: 100 times more infectious than HIV.
The time it takes from coming into contact with the virus to developing infection
(incubation) is between one and six months. Infected mothers often pass the disease
to their children during childbirth, and in these cases the child will often develop
a chronic case lasting well in excess of six months. This is less common in adult-
Most healthy people who have become infected are able to fight off the virus, sometimes
with symptoms so negligible they may not even know they have it. However whilst infected,
such people can of course infect others. Where symptoms do develop, they include
Stomach pains, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and jaundice are also very common. Hepatitis B is a serious illness, but there is also a more serious (and fortunately rare) form of the disease called Fulminant Hepatitis B which is often fatal.
The best course of action is of course prevention: safe sexual practices and for
those at risk through lifestyle or those travelling to areas where Hepatitis B is
considered high risk, such as Central and South America, there is an effective preventative
vaccine. Acute or short-
Treatment for chronic Hepatitis may be through the use of Interferon, which prevents the virus from multiplying inside your body, or from a range of antiviral drugs used singly or in combination.