This form of the hepatitis disorder is the most commonly occurring of all known infectious disease in the United States and was previously known by the name serum hepatitis. Structurally and functionally this form of the virus is much more complex than the hepatitis A virus. It leads to a total destruction of liver tissue and is at least a 100 times more contagious when compared to the AIDS virus.
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In the human body, the blood is the main fluid in which the hepatitis B virus-HBV accumulates, the HBV is also found in abundance within the saliva, the seminal fluid, and in other bodily fluids. Hepatitis B is very similar in its mode of transmission to the HIV virus that causes AIDS; however, it is much more contagious compared to the HIV virus. Millions of viral particles of the hepatitis B may be present in a single drop of infected blood in the body of a hepatitis B patient. However, casual contact is not sufficient to spread the hepatitis B virus. To cause the symptoms of the disease to appear in an individual, particles of the virus must enter a person's blood. Entry is made through unprotected sexual contact where exchange of body fluids occurs; infection is also done via blood transfusions, and from dirty needles, or even from the sharing of contaminated toothbrushes, razors, and even household utensils used on a daily basis. This virus is very resistant to stress and structurally stable and it can remain viable even on dried surfaces - such as thorns or stones for days on end at a stretch. Among all infected patients, more than half of all cases are linked to unprotected sexual intercourse with affected partners.
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Accidental pricks from a contaminated needle, lab accidents involving splashing blood has resulted in many health care workers coming down with an infection of the hepatitis B virus. In another related profession, many dentists are infected by an affected patient and then have gone on themselves to spread the virus to other patients inadvertently. The chances of infection for a health care worker who has received an accidental needle prick from a needle used on a patient with the hepatitis B virus lies somewhere from 6 percent to 30 percent. In direct contrast, the comparative chances of contracting the HIV virus in this way are only about 0.5 percent during accidents.
During pregnancy infected mothers might possibly pass the virus to their babies, this transmission of the virus may occur if it does in the final three months of the pregnancy term, it can also happen during the delivery stage, and also during the nursing stage. If the disease affects the mother only during the early stages of pregnancy, then the chances of passing on the infection to the child is minimized to a great extent. To prevent this sort of transmission from occurring, all pregnant women must be tested for possible hepatitis B infection.
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The chronic form of hepatitis B has infected many millions of people living around the world. These groups of people are very good carriers of the disease and can easily transmit the virus to others - in contrast to those who are affected only by the hepatitis A. the virus can bring about eventual liver cancer in a patient, this viral cause of cancer is therefore considered to be the most common form of cancers of this type.
It takes only six weeks for the symptoms of hepatitis A to arrive, however, even six months may pass from date of initial exposure before symptoms of hepatitis B appear in a person affected by the virus. In addition, a substantial number of patients develop very few symptoms as such. The symptoms of this form of the virus are evident in a very subtle way if they do appear, they arrive gradually and can be seen in a general tiredness, some nausea, and problems like joint and muscle aches, the upper right side of the stomach can be affected by a mild abdominal pain, the person may also have a very poor appetite, and problems such as hives or rash may also be evident, in addition to these symptoms, the person may also suffer from a mild diarrhea lasting from three to ten days. In approximately half of those infected patients, these initial symptoms will be followed by jaundice. Some symptoms like nausea are generally not seen during hepatitis B infections and are more apparent during infection from hepatitis A. during infection with the hepatitis B, the other symptoms that may sometimes become evident include the production of light-colored stools, the darkening of urine, and a persistent itchy sensation in the skin. These symptoms may disappear following the appearance of the jaundice. In addition, many infants who contract the virus from their mothers may develop no symptoms initially, however, they remain at high risk for developing cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer in the second decade of life.
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Among all infected patients approximately one third does not suffer seriously. The other third of patients on the other hand may develop no symptoms at all after infection. All in all, if there are no evident symptoms, the person is much more likely to become a carrier, unaware that he or she is infected. There is also an increased chance of liver cirrhosis in about 25 percent of carriers, who may not suffer chronic symptoms at all. It may take a few of them several weeks to overcome serious illness caused by the infection. In addition, severe illness is also likely to affect those over 40 years of age. Most children infected by the virus develop few or no symptoms at all.
It may take several weeks in advance before the appearance of the first symptoms, for populations of the hepatitis B virus to be found in all blood and body fluids, in some cases several months may pass before these become apparent. The disappearance of the disease is indicated by the sudden appearance of certain antibodies-one these appear, it can be said that the symptoms have run their course. While not appearing to be ill themselves, all individuals who are chronic carriers-which is about 10 percent of all those infected-will always remain infectious. In all cases, recovery from the symptoms endows life long immunity to a patient.
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Infection from the hepatitis B is preventable by a few precautionary measures; however, because of lack of basic preventive measures thousands of people around the world continue to become infected with the disease every year. Blood plasma was the raw material for the manufacture of the vaccine introduced in 1983 to combat infections. After this, another vaccine manufactured using synthetic products was introduced. Finally a third synthetic vaccine was introduced in 1991 to combat hepatitis B. Three doses of the last two vaccines are normally required to being immunity from infection. This vaccine must be given to all people likely to be exposed to the virus, this includes all medical and nursing personnel who act as caregivers, in addition all other individuals at risk must be vaccinated. Vaccination of all infants was suggested using these vaccines as of November 1991. Vaccine booster shots are currently not suggested as far as these vaccines are concerned.
The side effects from the hepatitis B vaccine seem to be minimal unlike those that can occur with other vaccines. The only noticeable side effects if it is present seem to be a slight localized reaction limited to soreness on the site of the injection and a slight fever may also be apparent at times.
Individuals who have never been immunized may receive immune globulin HBIG to achieve 90 percent protection from symptoms if they are exposed for the first time, this can be achieved if they receive the initial dose within seven days from time of exposure and following this time period, hepatitis B vaccine can be started in concurrent series. The HBIG vaccine is given to all babies within 12 hours after birth if the mother is infected. At the same time, the vaccine series must be started for effective prevention from infection.
To prevent the spread of infection to people they live or work with all known carriers of the virus should follow some standard hygienic procedures. It is important for known carriers of the virus not to share razors, toothbrushes, or any other object, which stands a good chance of becoming contaminated with the blood of the carrier. All sexual partners and household members of a carrier must undergo immunization using the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent infection. At all times known carriers must inform their dentist and other health care providers of their status as carriers.
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