The ABC’S of hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the HVB virus.
HVB is transmitted by blood, sperm or vaginal secretions of an infected person. We can contract this virus, in particular:
- during sexual intercourse with an infected person;
- through skin contact with blood of an infected person (i.e.: injection made with a needle contaminated with blood, sharing syringes, needles or razors);
- through contact between a mucous membrane and blood of an infected person (i.e.: splattering with blood in an eye, nose or mouth).
An infected pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her child at birth. Transmission by blood transfusion is unlikely to happen in industrialized nations due to screening performed on all blood donations. However, travellers who receive injections or blood products in some developing countries can be exposed to the virus.
The infected persons, with or without symptoms, are contagious for several weeks. When the infection has disappeared, they cannot transmit the disease. However, persons presenting chronic infection can transmit the disease.
The infection does not always appear with overt symptoms. The classical symptoms of hepatitis are fatigue (that can persist during several weeks), fever, nausea, headaches, loss of appetite, jaundice and abdominal malaise. Hospitalization is sometimes necessary.
Between six weeks to six months can elapse between the entrance of the virus into the body and the start of symptoms. In almost half of the persons affected, infection is unnoticed. Almost all people recover spontaneously. However, about one adult person out of 10 remains infected by the virus over a variable period. Persons presenting chronic infection have greater risk of developing chronic liver disease, such cirrhosis.