What is it?
Is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. Hepatitis B attacks and damages the liver, a vital organ that we cannot live without.
Our liver helps us by storing energy and good vitamins and aiding in digestion. It also removes bad toxins from the body such as alcohol.
How is it Spread?
Hepatitis B is spread from human to human, it is found in blood and body fluid such as saliva, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk.
It is commonly spread through sexual contact – sex without a condom increases your risk; parent to child transmission at birth, sharing needles for skin piercing and tattoos or through close contact with cuts and scratches of an infected person.
It can even be spread from drinking from a shared glass or bilo; from biting; and sharing personal items such as razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers.
Mothers who are hepatitis B positive can pass the infection onto their baby during the birth process, household members who are hepatitis B positive can pass the virus onto others, including children, living with them and children can pass the virus onto each other when they’re playing, especially if they have an accident.
The hepatitis B virus can also live outside the body in dried blood for at least seven days. If there is hepatitis B infected dried blood on playground equipment it is possible for another child to hurt themselves on the same equipment days later and become infected.
Hepatitis B In Fiji
In Fiji, Hepatitis B immunisations are part of Fiji’s immunisation schedule for infants under 18 months. These are free and available to all new births in Fiji.
However, there are many adults who are still at risk of catching Hepatitis B, the rates in Fiji are quite high. The immunisation for Hepatitis B was introduced in 1989, so if you were born before that time, you will likely not have been immunised. It is important to talk to your doctor or health centre about getting immunised against Hepatitis B.
What are the Symptoms?
Those infected with Hepatitis B may show no symptoms for many months or even years, yet it can be just as easily transmitted to others, over that time.
The symptoms of Hepatitis B can include:
- dark urine
- pale bowel movements (faeces)
- joint and muscle pain
- jaundice. (yellowish eyes and skin)
Symptoms generally appear 6 weeks to 6 months after you catch hepatitis B (often 2–3 months).
NOTE: Many people with hepatitis B don’t know they have it, because they don’t have symptoms, this is why it is important to get tested.
A simple blood test can tell your doctor if you have the hepatitis B virus now or if you had it in the past. Your doctor also may be able to tell if you have had the vaccine to prevent the virus.
The hepatitis B vaccine involves a course of 3 injections;
– Hep B 1 – The day you receive the injection
– Hep B 2 – 6 weeks after first dose
– Hep B 3 – 14 weeks after second dose
What are the risks of Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B patients whose conditions deteriorate are at grave risk of developing cirrhosis or severe scarring of the liver which leads to liver dysfunction and cancer.
Those with the virus can suffer from liver infection and severe illness. Is there a cure?
If contracted, Hepatitis B cannot be reversed and there is no cure. That is why the best protection from Hepatitits B is to get immunised. There are other steps you can take to redcue your risk of contracting the virus below.
How do I prevent contracting Hepatitis B?
Protection from Hepatitis B in the form of a vaccine is available, it offers long-term protection and is the best assurance you have of never contracting it. It is suitable for any age.
BABIES can be given the vaccine immediately after birth and need another dose at 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks. You child can get this immunisation for free, however, you must make sure they get each dose at the right time.
ADULTS are required to have three doses over six months. After many years, a booster may be required to maintain immunity.
If you are PREGNANT and have Hepatitis B, your baby can be given special antibodies to protect them from getting Hepatitis B.
Speak to your local medical professional about the Hepatitis B vaccine.
Prevent the spread of Hepatitis B
If you are living with Hepatitis B, you should take responsibility for not spreading the virus further. There are some simple precautions you can take to prevent spreading Hepatitis B.
- Don’t share toothbrushes, razors, facecloths, towels
- Don’t share needles used for skin piercing and injecting
- Don’t have tattoos, ear piercing or acupuncture
- Don’t donate blood
- Avoid sexual contact during the acute illness. Use condoms if you continue to be a carrier. Using condoms helps protect against hepatitis B and C (as well as HIV and other STIs).