According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B." Also, more than 3,000 people die from hepatitis B in the U.S. each year.
Hepatitis B is a virus which attacks the liver. The CDC states ʺapproximately 15-25 percent of those infected with hepatitis B will develop serious liver issues over time.ʺ Serious liver issues include liver cancer, cirrhosis, liver damage and liver failure.
Infants and children are the most vulnerable. However, adults can also be infected. You can become infected with the hepatitis B virus by the transmission of bodily fluids or blood. Also, pregnant mothers with hepatitis B can pass the virus on to their newborn babies. The World Health Organization states, ʺThe hepatitis B virus is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.ʺ
Symptoms of hepatitis B may include:
· Nausea and vomiting
· Swollen/bloated stomach or ankles
· Easy bruising
· Upset stomach and abdominal pain
· Loss of appetite
· Light-colored or grey bowel movements
· Unusually dark urine
· Joint pain
However, the Delaware Valley Hepatitis Treatment, Research, Education Center states, ʺHepatitis B is often called a silent infection because many infected people have no noticeable symptoms.ʺ
A simple blood test can determine if you have hepatitis B. If you are diagnosed with hepatitis B, your doctor will treat and manage your disease with a handful of FDA approved prescription drugs.
According to the CDC, ʺThe best way to prevent hepatitis B is to get vaccinated.ʺ The vaccine is available to adults as well as children. The vaccine is given in three doses over a six month period.
For more information on hepatitis B, the CDC offers a free PDF ʺcheat sheetʺ on the disease. The two-page document can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HBV/PDFs/HepBGeneralFactSheet.pdf.
Additional sources for hepatitis B information:
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention(800) 311–3435 or (404) 639–3534
Hepatitis Foundation International
(800) 891–0707 or (301) 622–4200