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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B

Another infectious disease, Hepatitis B, which is caused by a virus, occurs largely among newborns and young children.

High Risk Group

People who are more likely to contract the disease are surgeons, recipients of blood transfusions, health care and laboratory personnel, prostitutes, drug abusers, infant of a carrier mother.

Source of Infection

Contaminated blood and body secretions such as saliva, vaginal secretion and semen of infected person.

Period of infectivity

The Hepatitis B virus is present in the blood of the infected person a month before jaundice sets and remains there till the acute phase is over. This person can infect others even after several months, or even years if he is a chronic carrier.

Mode of Transmission

Hepatitis B is a blood borne infection. It is usually transmitted by infected blood and the use of contaminated needles, syringes, during blood transfusion, dialysis, tattooing, ear and nose piercing and acupuncture. The virus can also be transmitted to a baby from a carrier mother either before or after delivery. Sometimes, it may also get transmitted by intercourse, especially anal sex.

Incubation Period

Usually between 45 to 180 days.

Symptoms

Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, general weakness, aches and pains, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, yellow discoloration of urine and skin. Sometimes, severe cases go on to develop liver cancer later in life.

Prevention

Since there is no specific treatment, the best way to handle the disease is by preventing it. This can be done by vaccination. Hepatitis B vaccines are now administered to newborns in three doses – at zero, one and six months. The immunity thus developed remains at a protective level for about three to five years. Thereafter, the child can take booster doses.

Other measures taken to prevent Hepatitis B infection include screening of all blood donors for infection, use of disposable needles and syringes and gloves by health personnel, maintaining personal hygiene, discontinuing practice of sharing razors and using barrier method of contraception.

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