Hepatitis (A,B,C,D,E): Symptoms,Types, Causes, Prevention
How to Prevent Hepatitis B
Hepatitis infers inflammation and dysfunction of the liver. It can be caused by consuming toxins (alcohol in particular), over-medicating, trauma and viral infections. Hepatitis B is a common virus that infects and inflames the liver, either in short-term bouts (acute) or for much longer periods of time (chronic). An estimated 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and more than 350 million people have chronic, lifelong liver infections as a result.Symptoms of acute hepatitis B often include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, darkened urine and abdominal pain.Chronic cases also involve progressive liver dysfunction, cirrhosis and, ultimately, organ failure. Hepatitis B has no medical cure, but it can be prevented via vaccination and responsible lifestyle choices.
Preventing via Vaccination
Vaccinate your newborn.According to medical authorities, the best way to prevent hepatitis B infection is to be vaccinated against it, preferably starting at birth.Two HBV vaccines are currently available (Recombivax HB and Engerix-B) and both require three intramuscular injections administered over a six-month period. As such, newborn babies should get their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine very shortly after birth and get the other two shots by the time they are six-months old. The injections are given into the thigh muscles of newborns.
- Babies born to mothers who have acute hepatitis B or have had the infection in the past should get vaccinated within 12 hours of birth.
- After three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine, at least 95% of infants, children and adolescents develop adequate antibody responses to the HBV and are immune to infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- The side effects from hepatitis B vaccines are usually not serious and typically include soreness at the injection site and mild flu-like symptoms.
Take your child for a "catch-up" shot.If your child or adolescent wasn't vaccinated against HBV at birth, then make an appointment with your family doctor and ask about getting so-called "catch-up" doses of hepatitis B vaccine — which means getting their immune system caught up to speed in preventing the infection.This is particularly important if your child has a weakened immune system, needs frequent blood transfusions or has a serious liver or kidney disease. Furthermore, you should take your teenager for a catch-up shot if they are becoming sexually active. The deltoid (shoulder) muscle is the recommended site for hepatitis B vaccination in children and adults.
- HBV is infectious, but it's not transmitted via saliva. It's only transmitted through contact with blood and other body fluids, such as semen.As such, you can't get a hepatitis B infection from sharing food or drinks, kissing or getting sneezed on.
- The Recombivax HB vaccine has only a two-dose schedule (instead of three) for adolescents aged 11 through 15 years, so this may be more appropriate if your child has a big fear of needles.
Get a "booster" dose if you're at higher risk.Even if you were vaccinated at birth for HBV, you should get a booster dose (three shots within six months) if you are considered at high risk for the infection. People at higher risk of hepatitis B infection include health care workers, frequent travelers (especially to developing countries), people who live in countries where the risk of hepatitis B is high, patients undergoing hemodialysis, sexually promiscuous people, people who have contracted an STD in the past, pregnant women, male homosexuals, recreational drug users, people in the correctional system, people who need frequent blood products or transfusions (hemodialysis patients), people with compromised immunity and people with chronic liver or kidney disease.
- The regular hepatitis B vaccine schedule (three doses) is only 75% effective in preventing infection or clinical hepatitis if you are aged 60 years or older.As such, talk to your doctor about possibly getting larger doses or more doses of the vaccine for better protection.
- The most common ways HBV is transmitted include: unprotected sexual contact with someone who is infected; sharing contaminated needles, syringes or intravenous (IV) paraphernalia; accidental needle pricks while working as a healthcare professional; and infected mothers passing it to babies during childbirth.
Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices
Practice safe sex.The exchange of body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions) during sexual contact is the most common method of HBV transmission between adults. As such, know the HBV status of any sexual partner and always either wear a condom or insist that your partner does in order to prevent your risk of hepatitis B infection.Condom use does not completely eliminate the risk of hepatitis B infection or other sexually transmitted diseases, but it significantly reduces it.
- Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have a sexual encounter, even if there's no sexual intercourse involved.
- The HBV can't penetrate latex or polyurethane, but sometimes condoms develop rips or tears or are used incorrectly.
Be cautious with body piercing and tattooing.Getting body parts pierced or tattooed are not high-risk activities for HBV infection or any other type of infection. However, because HBV is a blood born virus, there's some risk of infection if the person piercing or tattooing you doesn't sterilize their equipment properly, use disposable gloves and/or practice good hygiene.As such, only use shops that have good reputations and are willing to answer questions about how they reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases, such as HBV.
- Consider making your appointment for when the shop opens in the morning (so you're the first client of the day) and asking them if you can watch how they sterilize their equipment.
- Explain that you're especially cautious of infectious blood-born diseases and that you're not questioning their professionalism, just wanting a high level of hygiene.
Maintain a strong immune system.For any type of infection (viral, bacterial or fungal), true prevention depends on a healthy and strong immune system. Your immune system consists of specialized cells that search for and attempt to destroy HBV, but when the system is weakened and malfunctioning, HBV proliferates in the blood and causes liver inflammation and damage.Thus, focusing on ways to keep your immune system strong and functioning properly is a logical and natural approach to preventing HBV and virtually all other infectious diseases.
- Getting more sleep (or better quality sleep), eating more fresh produce, practicing good hygiene, drinking lots of purified water and regular cardiovascular exercise are all proven ways to boost your immune function.
- Your immune response will also benefit by cutting down on refined sugars (soda pop, candy, ice cream, most baked goods), reducing your alcohol consumption and refraining from smoking tobacco products.
- Supplements that can boost immunity include vitamins A, C and D, zinc, selenium, echinacea, olive leaf extract and astragalus root.
Get a HBIG injection.If you're not vaccinated against HBV and are nervous that you've been recently exposed to the virus (ie. poked with a used needle or unprotected sexual encounter), then talk to your doctor about a single injection of hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) to help contain the infection.HBIG is recommended following exposure to HBV (preferably within 24 hours of exposure) because it provides immediate, short-term protection against HBV proliferation and infection.
- Along with a HBIG injection, a dose of hepatitis B vaccine is given at the same time for those not previously vaccinated.
- A HBIG injection does not guarantee protection from HBV infection and it becomes significantly less effective beyond the initial 24-hour window from the moment of exposure.
- Children born to mothers who are infected with hepatitis B should have a hepatitis B Vaccination and HBIG.
QuestionWill a vaccine fully protect against HBV?
Family Medicine PhysicianFamily Medicine PhysicianExpert AnswerYes if you are fully vaccinated you should be completely protected: however, that does not mean you can engage risky behavior because there are other serious disease like Hepatitis C and HIV out there.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I eat when suffering from Hepatitis B?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFoods rich in protein and high in calories are recommended by doctors. However, other doctors say this doesn't really matter that much and you should just eat healthy. Things like eggs, chicken, salad, bananas, etc. are all good choices.Thanks!
What do I do if I had a vaccine in 2007, but now I have hepatitis B?
- Acute hepatitis B infections usually resolve on their own within a few weeks and typically do not require medical treatment.
- There is no medical treatment that prevents acute hepatitis B from becoming chronic. As such, your best best is a healthy immune system.
- Chronic HBV infection can lead to serious complications, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure.
- Without the vaccination, babies born to women who have the hepatitis B virus infection may develop chronic liver infections and serious health problems.
Sources and Citations
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