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Hepatitis B

(Hep-uh-tite-iss B)

Hepatitis B is an infectious liver disease that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. This virus causes an inflammation of the liver that may result in a short-term mild illness or a more serious lifelong illness. Short-term viral hepatitis B infections are known as acute Hepatitis B and the lifelong Hepatitis B infections are known as Chronic Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. The virus can be found in blood, semen and other bodily fluids and is transmitted when those fluids from an infected person enter the body of a non-infected person. This happens through unprotected sexual contact but can also happen from sharing needles, biting someone and causing the skin to break, touching another persons open sore or cut, and also can be transmitted from mother to child.

Hepatitis B infections can be prevented by completing the Hepatitis B vaccine series. This vaccine has been available since 1987.

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If you would like to get more information on testing, click here.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Hepatitis B Infection?

Many people infected with viral Hepatitis B will not have symptoms. If symptoms occur, they will begin appearing between six weeks to six months after becoming infected. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, fever, joint pain, abdominal discomfort, dark colored urine and jaundice.

During an acute infection, the symptoms may be mild and last four to six weeks. However, a very small percentage of Hepatitis B infections progress to overwhelming liver failure and death. If a person infected with Hepatitis B does not resolve the infection, they are considered to have a chronic Hepatitis B infection. This happens approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of the time.

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How Common Is Hepatitis B?

According to the CDC, there was an estimated 46,000 cases of new Hepatitis B infections in the United Stated in 2006. However, with increased rates of child immunizations, annual Hepatitis infection rates have been steadily declining. The CDC also estimates that up to 1.4 million Americans are living with Chronic Hepatitis B, many of whom may not even know it.

For Hepatitis B stats in our county, click on the diagram of the United States and Idaho at the top of the page.

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How Do I Know If I Have Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B infections may not cause any symptoms so a person may not even realize they are infected. The only way to be 100% sure if you have it, had it in the past, or were vaccinated for it, is through a blood test. If your test is positive for acute or chronic Hepatitis B, your healthcare provider can discuss treatment options with you.

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Can Hepatitis B Be Cured?

Hepatitis B cannot be cured through any medical procedure. It is possible for an infected persons body to clear the virus on its own but not through the aid of any kind of medicine. The symptoms of acute and chronic hepatitis can be treated to help people feel healthy and prevent further damage to the liver.

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How Can I Protect Myself From A Hepatitis B Infection?

Since 1987, there has been a vaccine available for prevention of viral Hepatitis B infection. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots administered over a span of six months. Many received their vaccine series during infancy and the majority are protected through adulthood. A person can determine their Hepatitis B status with the blood test described earlier. If a person was not vaccinated as an infant or child, the vaccine can still be given in adulthood.

Hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact, so prevention ideas include: Abstaining from any sexual activity, being in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with someone you know to be free of the virus, and by using condoms correctly and consistently. Hepatitis B is transmitted through all bodily fluids so it is important to avoid any behavior that may expose you to someone elses bodily fluids.

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Body Fluids: naturally-occurring substances that lubricate or are discharged from the body. The fluids typically associated with STD transmission include semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and breast milk.
Inflammation: a basic way that a persons body reacts to infection, injury or irritation. Typically inflammation results in some swelling, redness, warmth and pain.
Fatigue: a condition of general physical or mental tiredness in which a persons mind or body are unable to function at the level of normal ability
Jaundice: yellowing of the skin and the whites of an individuals eyes
Mutually Monogamous: two people who are in an exclusive relationship with each other. Neither one of them has sexual contact with another person outside of their relationship.