What is hepatitis B?
One third of our population world wide (around 2 billion people) has been infected by Hepatitis B with around 400 million people being its chronic carriers. It is caused by a DNA virus that belongs to a certain (hepadna) family of viruses. The liver disease caused due to HBV (hepatitis B virus) is a huge global health problem of today
What are the different stages of the disease?
The infection with a HBV can turn into an acute one with recovery and clearance of virus or else the patient might go into a chronic state which may be progressive or non progressive. The ability of an individual to clear the infection depends upon the his immunity power.
What are the signs and symptoms of acute disease?
Fever, anorexia (loss of appetite), nausea, vomiting, jaundice are some typical symptoms. Dark urine, pale feces and raised ALT levels (a liver enzyme) are sometimes seen as well. Where most patients with HBV are asymptomatic, sometimes the above mentioned symptoms can be severe and life threatening.
What are the symptoms of chronic disease?
Most chronic carriers are asymptomatic and the symptoms usually don’t develop until the patient is in the late course of the disease like blood in vomiting or jet black stools due to chronic liver disease.
What are the complications of the disease?
This disease can lead to scaring of liver, liver failure, live cancer and death in certain cases.
How can one contract this disease?
This disease can be contracted by:
.blood transfusions without proper screening for HBV
.intravenous drug abusers through sharing of needles and syringes
.prenatally from mother to newborn
.unprotected sexual intercourse
Though the treatment currently available against the HBV can not completely cure the disease but it definitely reduces the severity of complications that may develop if not dealt with properly. Hence if a patient is detected with HBV early in the course of disease much of his suffering can be curbed. Speaking of our country, ironically, most of the patients are unaware of the fact that they are developing this disease as they have never been screened for it. Sadly, they get to know about it only when the fatal complications of the disease start showing up. Nothing much can be done then as maximum liver damage has already happened.
How the disease can be prevented?
Universal childhood vaccinations and also vaccining people who are at a high risk of contracting the disease.
.people handling with blood products on a frequent basis (doctors, nurses, lab staff)
.people receiving multiple blood transfusions such as haemophiliacs.
.people undergoing dialysis
.intravenous drug abusers
The disease can also prevented by properly screening the blood for HBV prior to transfusions and also by properly disposing off the syringes after use to avoid their abuse.