What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a human virus spread from person to person by blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.
You can be at risk of getting Hepatitis B if you:
- Have sex without a condom with someone who has Hepatitis B
- Have sex without a condom with more than one partner
- Are a injection drug user
- Are a non-injection drug user (i.e. snorting cocaine or other drugs)
- Work at a place where you are exposed to human blood
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Received a blood transfusion before 1975
- Mother to child during childbirth
How will I know if I have Hepatitis B?
The best way to know is to be tested for it. It is a simple blood test that any doctor/physician can perform. It is estimated that about 30% OF PERSONS WHO HAVE HEPATITIS B SHOW NO SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS of the virus. In general, signs and symptoms are also less common in children than adults.
The symptoms that may occur when infected with Hepatitis B are:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Dark colored urine
- Light colored feces/stool
- Flu like symptoms:
What kind of long-term effects will Hepatitis B give me?
It is estimated that 15-25% of people infected with Hepatitis B can have long-term (chronic) effects from Hepatitis B. Long term affects means that someone may have higher risks of developing cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and possibly liver failure. But 75%-85% of people infected will clear the virus on their own.
What is the treatment for Hepatitis B?
Treatment is available for people experiencing chronic Hepatitis B and is something that needs to be discussed in depth with your physician. Maricopa County Department of Public Health does not provide treatment for Hepatitis B. Not everyone is a good candidate for treatment of this virus, which is why it is really important to establish an honest and open relationship with your physician to discuss whether or not you are eligible for treatment. The most common treatment given is a combination of Interferon injections and taking an oral medication known as Limivudine. This treatment may or may not work with your body, is toxic and can cause severe side effects which, again, it is stressed to communicate all of your questions and concerns about treatment with your physician.
How can I prevent myself from getting Hepatitis B?
- Hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection
- If you are having sex use latex condoms every time with each sexual partner
- If you are pregnant, you should get a blood test for Hepatitis B
- Do not shoot or inject drugs. If you do get into a treatment program. If you cannot stop, never share needles, syringes, water, or works, and get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. If you continue to inject drugs please refer to http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/qa26.htm for further information on how to clean your drug paraphernalia
- Do not share personal care items that may have blood on them like razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers
- Do not share tattoo or body piercing equipment because these tools may have blood on them
- If you are a non-injection drug user do not share dollar bills, straws, or tooters used for snorting because these items may have someone else's blood on them
Who should get the vaccine for Hepatitis B?
- Health care and public safety workers
- Injection drug users
- Non-injection drug users (i.e. snorting cocaine or other drugs)
- Men who have sex with men
- If you have multiple sex partners
- Persons with Hepatitis C
- Routine vaccination of 0-18 year olds
- Infants/children of immigrants from areas with high rates of HBV infection
- Hemodialysis patients