What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). There are two forms of HBV: acute and self-resolving, or chronic, which can lead to more severe issues such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. If left untreated, it can be fatal. Hepatitis B is normally spread through blood and other bodily fluids.
Acute Hepatitis B, is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after being exposed to the virus.
Chronic Hepatitis B is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body. Most people who end up developing chronic Hepatitis B may not have symptoms, but it still can cause liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer or even death.
Is Hepatitis B contagious?
Yes. Chronically infected people can spread the virus even if they do not feel or look sick.
However, most adults with Hepatitis B recover fully, even if their signs and symptoms are severe. Infants and children are more likely to develop a chronic (long-lasting) Hepatitis B infection.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B symptoms can be both mild or severe. Symptoms usually appear about 1–4 months after infection. However, symptoms of the virus can appear as early as two weeks post-infection. Some people, usually young children, may not have any symptoms at all.
Hepatitis B signs and symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
How do you get Hepatitis B?
The Hepatitis B virus is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. Some Hepatitis B causes can include:
- Birth (spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth)
- Sex with an infected partner
- Sharing needles, syringes or other drug preparation equipment
- Sharing items such as toothbrushes, razors or medical equipment such as a glucose monitor with an infected person
- Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments of an infected person
You CANNOT get Hepatitis B through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, hand holding, coughing or sneezing.
Is Hepatitis B curable?
Most people with acute Hepatitis B make a full recovery. They may never even show any symptoms. However, chronic Hepatitis B sufferers often need treatment to help manage the condition.
Acute Hepatitis B also may not require treatment. In some cases, a doctor will recommend monitoring symptoms and getting regular blood tests to see if the virus is still in the body.
Treating acute Hepatitis B can include:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, to help with any abdominal pain
And while chronic Hepatitis B is not curable, it is treatable. The goal of treatment is to reduce the risk of complications, including premature cancer or death.
Treatment generally involves anti-viral medications, such as:
- Peginterferon alfa-2a injections
- Anti-viral tablets, such as Tenofoviror Entecavir
These medications can help to reduce symptoms and prevent liver damage. However, they rarely completely rid the body of the virus. Instead, the goal is to lower the viral load as much as possible.
Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis B?
Yes! A Hepatitis B vaccine is available for all age groups. It’s a safe and effective vaccine recommended for all infants at birth and for children up to 18 years. Hepatitis B vaccination is also recommended for adults with diabetes, those at high risk for infection due to their jobs or lifestyle, or in certain countries of birth.
The Hepatitis B vaccine has been dubbed as one of the safest and most effective vaccines ever made. It’s also known as the first “anti-cancer” vaccine as the virus it prevents against, Hepatitis B, is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide.
For a more complete list of who should get vaccinated for Hepatitis B, please consult these guidelines from the CDC.
Hepatitis B vaccine schedule
The vaccination schedule for adults and children is typically three intramuscular injections, with the second and third administered 1 and 6 months after the first.
Hepatitis B vaccine side effects
The most common side effects after vaccination are mild, and can include:
- Pain, swelling or redness where the shot was given
- Mild fever
- Muscle and joint aches
Serious side effects from the Hepatitis B vaccine are exceedingly rare.
Where can I get the Hepatitis a vaccine?
Thinking of getting a Hepatitis B vaccination? Contact your local Pharmaca pharmacy to schedule an appointment. Pharmaca’s pharmacists are some of the best in their field, and focus on individual counsel and care for each patient. We’ve worked with some of the medical industry’s top professionals in order to provide the best, and safest immunization services across the country.
We’ve been offering many immunizations recommended by the CDC for certain health concerns and before travel abroad for many years. We accept most major insurance providers so that your immunizations can be convenient and affordable.