What is Hepatitis B?
The hepatitis B virus- Stopping a silent killer
Second only to tobacco in causing human cancer, the hepatitis B virus is a disease that is spread through blood or other body fluids. Hepatitis B has been proven to be a silent and deadly killer because an already infected person never really gets rid of the virus and even in the early stages of cancer, that person will still feel perfectly healthy or fine. So you would not really know that you are infected until it is too late to do anything about it.
Now, studies show that 3 to 6 % of the entire human population is infected but up to a third are exposed and are potential carriers of Hepatitis B. Imagine a child who is exposed and infected early in life with Hepatitis B, this same child will become a lifelong carrier and develop serious liver problems such as liver cancer and potentially able to infect a lot of other people.
Who are at risk?
A person's risk to hepatitis B is exponentially increased if they:
* Have sex with more than one partner
* Have sex with an infected person
* Share needles when shooting drugs
* living in the same household with an infected person
* In a male homosexual relationship
* Have a job that involves contact with human blood
* Have hemophilia
A person contracting chronic hepatitis B is more than 300 times likely to develop liver cancer than an unexposed individual.
Most of the damage from the hepatitis B virus is done by our own body's defenses when it responds to the infection. When the body's immune system detects the infection, it sends out special cells to fight it off. But then these disease-fighting cells can lead to liver inflammation. The inflammation of the liver causes damage and also interferes with the body's ability to get rid of bilirubin, a breakdown product of old red blood cells. This condition is manifested by the discoloration or yellowing of the eyes and the body and is also the reason why an infected individual has dark tea like urine.
What are the symptoms?
Research has shown that it takes nearly half a year after infection for the appearance of symptoms of acute hepatitis. Early symptoms are:
* Loss of appetite
* Easily fatigued
* Low grade fever
* Body malaise
* Muscle and joint aches
* Nausea and vomiting
Best Defense: Immunization
With its Aids like symptoms and HIV like mode of infection, Hepatitis B is surely a scary disease. Fortunately for us, there is a vaccine already available in the market. Proven to be 95 % effective in preventing unexposed children and adults alike from developing chronic infection. With over 1 billion doses administered worldwide it has proven to be a safe and effective vaccine.
Why get immunized?
If the reasons cited above still doesn’t scare you. Consider the financial and emotional cost of treating your Hepatitis B infection, your liver cancer or your cirrhosis.
© 2008 Shanti Rose