Infection through sexual contact.
Contamination of needles, for example, acupuncture, tattoo or body piercing.
The virus survives for up to 7 days on a needle. Clearly, needles should not be re-used, and certainly need to be adequately sterilised.
Think twice before getting a tattoo, body piercing or acupuncture whilst overseas.
Being involved in an accident involving medical treatment with a non-sterile needle, or mucosal/blood contact from another injured person.
The virus may also be acquired in other ways:
- Mother to child around childbirth.
- When drug users share needles.
- Needle-stick injury in an occupational setting.
- contact between infected body fluids and mucous membranes; however, this does not include kissing.
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
“Acute” Hepatitis B, and “Chronic” Hepatitis B should be thought of as two separate conditions.
Acute Hepatitis B describes the initial symptoms that may occur. Only around a third to half of adults develop Acute Hepatitis B after becoming infected – the rest having no symptoms at all. The time from exposure to onset of symptoms of Acute Hepatitis B is around 3 months. Acute Hepatitis B manifests as Jaundice with symptoms such as fever, muscle aches and fatigue. The Jaundice usually resolves after 1 to 3 weeks. The fatigue may, however, persist for several months.
Chronic Hepatitis B occurs when the virus is not cleared from the body. In other words, Chronic Hepatitis B is diagnosed on a blood test. There are no specific symptoms of Hepatitis B and most people have no symptoms at all.
What is the big deal about Hepatitis B?
- Chronic Hepatitis B may causes permanent liver damage (Cirrhosis).
- Cancer of the liver is a major complication.
- Most People don’t know they are infected – and may pass it on unwittingly.
Untreated, around 15 to 25% of people with chronic hepatitis B will die from the disease. Antiviral medication helps to reduce the risk of both cirrhosis and liver cancer. In Australia, there were 389 deaths from Hepatitis B in 2013.
Hepatitis B Vaccine Snippet
Most children or younger adults will have been vaccinated against hepatitis B in childhood. For travel, the vaccine is usually given as a course of 3 or 4 injections.
The Hepatitis B Vaccine usually works lifelong.