Transmission: Vaginal, oral and especially anal sex; sharing contaminated drug needles; piercing the skin with contaminated instruments such as those used in dental and medical procedures; and receiving contaminated blood or blood products through transfusions.
Symptoms: About one-third of people with HBV are asymptomatic. When symptoms are present they include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms of liver involvement include dark urine, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Treatment: There is no known cure. Most infections clear up by themselves within 4-8 weeks. Some individuals become chronically infected.
Impact on Infected Person: For those individuals who are chronically infected, the disease can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and immune system disorders.
Impact on Fetus or Newborn: Pregnant women can transmit the disease to their unborn children. Some 90% of infants infected at birth become chronic carriers and are at risk of liver disease and liver cancer. They are also capable of transmitting the virus. Infants of infected mothers can be given immunoglobulin and vaccinated at birth, potentially eliminating the risk of chronic infection.
Preventive Measures: Abstaining from sex with an infected person, especially anal sex, where body fluids, blood, semen or vaginal secretions are likely to be exchanged, is the only 100% effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of Hepatitis B. Latex condoms can reduce but not eliminate the risk of contracting the disease during sex. Avoid illicit IV drug use and sharing drug needles. Discuss with health care providers precautions that are taken to avoid transmission of Hepatitis B, especially when receiving blood products or blood transfusions. A vaccine is available and is recommended for those at risk of contracting Hepatitis B. Additionally, the vaccine has been added to the routine pediatric immunization schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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