Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver and can lead to liver damage or even liver cancer if left untreated. It is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world, and in the UK, it is estimated that around 180,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis B.
Transmission of Hepatitis B occurs through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. This can happen through unprotected sex, sharing needles or other drug-injecting equipment, or from mother to child during childbirth. In rare cases, Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through sharing personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes or razors.
The symptoms of Hepatitis B can vary from person to person, and some individuals may not show any symptoms at all. However, common symptoms of acute Hepatitis B can include fever, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to more serious symptoms such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer.
Fortunately, there is a highly effective vaccine available for Hepatitis B that is offered as part of the routine childhood immunization schedule in the UK. The vaccine is also recommended for people who are at a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis B, such as healthcare workers, people who inject drugs, and people who have unprotected sex with multiple partners.
For those who have already contracted Hepatitis B, there are a range of treatments available that can help manage the condition and reduce the risk of complications. These treatments include antiviral medications that can help suppress the virus, as well as regular monitoring to check liver function and assess any potential liver damage.
If you suspect that you may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to check for the presence of the virus and determine the best course of action.
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