Hepatitis B (HBV) remains one of the leading cause of chronic liver disease mainly in South East Asia. Hepatitis B infection is caused by a virus that infects the liver and causes acute hepatitis (short-term infection) and chronic hepatitis B (long-term infection). Hepatitis B (HBV) damages your liver slowly (liver cirrhosis) and may lead to liver cancer. If you have hepatitis, you do not know it because nearly all chronic hepatitis B patients do not have symptoms. But as long as you have the virus, you can spread it to others and may damage your liver slowly.
How does hepatitis B spread?
The mode of transmission is through contact with the blood or body fluids (saliva, vaginal fluids, semen) of a person who has the virus. You may get hepatitis B if you share toothbrushes or razors with an infected person; have unprotective sex with infected person; share needles with an infected person (during drug use), receive infected blood transfusions; get acupuncture with unclean needles, and share piercing tools without sterilizing them.
Though hepatitis B is a slow disease, yet you can prevent it by protecting yourself against it; the following top 10 preventive measures will help you:
1. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is vaccination. The vaccine is given in a series of 3 to 4 doses. Ensure that babies, children, teenagers and adults should get vaccinated.
2. Ensure that new born babies must get the hepatitis B vaccine at birth; infants should get all three shots by age 6 months. Health care workers and those who live with someone who has hepatitis B should get the vaccine.
3. Infants born to mothers who have acute hepatitis B or have had the infection in the past should get a special hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth.
4. Hepatitis B vaccine (HBIG) shot helps prevent infection if given within 24 hours of contact with the virus.
5. Don’t share toothbrushes, nail clippers, or razors with an infected person. Little cuts in the skin while clipping nails, removing hair, or brushing teeth are perfect openings for viruses like hepatitis B to spread.
6. Use condoms when you have sex. Well, lubricated latex condoms help prevents the spread of hepatitis B.
7. Infinitesimally small drop of blood is enough to spread hepatitis B virus. Therefore, ensure that the needles used for piercing (tattooing) are properly clean & sterile.
8. Ensure that pregnant woman must get tested for the virus.
9. The blood used for transfusion should be screened for hepatitis B.
10. Wear latex or plastic gloves if you have to touch blood.
Personnel working in police, fire department and paramedics should consider vaccination mandatory as they may accidently come in contact with the blood of accident victims. If you are already tested positive for hepatitis B, your liver function should be measured regularly to decide whether you need treatment and all the other members of your house should get vaccinated. Consult a hepatologist for further details and advice.
Join us in preventing hepatitis B by promoting awareness about it through campaigns and preventing it through vaccination.