Education

What is hepatitis B?

  • Hepatitis B is a disease caused the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Chronic HBV infection (one that fails to be cleared for more than six months and almost always remains for life) can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. About 60-80% of primary liver cancer worldwide is caused by chronic HBV. Team HBV is dedicated to eradicating this devastating infection and preventing liver cancer.

How is hepatitis B transmitted?

  • HBV can be transmitted through blood and other body fluids (e.g. unprotected sex, needling sharing, contact with open cuts or sores)
  • The majority of chronic HBV cases were transmitted through birth from mother to child.

 What are some common myths and misconceptions about hepatitis B?

  • Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted through food/water.
  • Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted through casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands.
  • Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted through kissing, sneezing or coughing.
  • Hepatitis B is NOT transmitted through breastfeeding.

Why should Asian and Pacific Islanders care about hepatitis B?

  • 1 in 10 Asians has chronic HBV infection, both worldwide and in the United States.
  • Without monitoring/treatment, a quarter of those people will eventually die from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • That adds up to over 500,000 deaths around the world each year among the API population.

What are the key differences among hepatitis A, B, and C?

  • “Hepatitis” refers to any disease that results in inflammation of the liver, regardless of how that disease is contracted.
  • Hepatitis A is an short-term (acute) infection that is transmitted through contaminated food and water. Infection can be prevented by receiving the hepatitis A vaccine. It has no specific treatment but is generally self-limited (clears by itself) and has a low mortality rate.
  • Hepatitis B can be both a short-term and long-term infection. It is transmitted through contaminated blood and semen. Infection can be prevented by receiving the hepatitis B vaccine. Chronic hepatitis B has no cure (cannot be cleared) but drugs can slow viral replication and liver damage.
  • Hepatitis C can be both a short-term and long-term infection that is transmitted through contaminated blood. No effective vaccine is yet available. Drugs

Why is hepatitis B often not diagnosed?

  • Most HBV cases are asymptomatic. When symptoms do develop, they are often mistaken for those of the flu (i.e. fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting). People with chronic infection may not feel sick until liver damage has progressed significantly. The survival rate for primary liver cancer 5 years after diagnosis is less than 10%. This is why hepatitis B is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.”

What should I know about the vaccine?

  • The hepatitis B vaccine was the first “anti-cancer” vaccine. Based on current data, routine booster doses of the hepatitis B vaccine are not needed.  However, proper use has been proven to effectively prevent HBV infection and its deadly implications of liver cancer and liver failure.

Am I at risk?

  • If not already infected, the CDC recommends that the following groups of adults receive vaccination for hepatitis B:
    • All infants and previously unvaccinated children and adolescents aged 0-18 years
    • Travelers to regions of intermediate and high HBV endemicity (all of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central America; most countries in the Pacific and Eastern Europe; many countries of South America, the Caribbean; some countries of Western Europe)
    • Sexual partners or household contacts of HBsAg-positive persons
    • Persons with multiple sexual partners
    • Injection-drug users
    • Persons with occupational exposure to blood or body fluids
    • Men who have sex with men
    • Anyone who seeks protection from HBV infection

I received the vaccine (e.g. as a condition of entering school). Am I still at risk?

  • It is possible you were infected at birth but were never tested.
    • Screening for existing hepatitis B infection is not routinely performed before vaccination.
    • Screening expectant mothers for hepatitis B has also not been universal. Even now, only 27 states have prenatal hepatitis B screening laws, and existing laws often lack enforcement mechanisms.
    • In the US, routine vaccination of children began in 1991, but even today, a large proportion of infants do not receive the first dose of vaccine at birth as recommended, when it still could prevent infection. Consequently, about 1,000 newborns acquire chronic HBV infection in the US every year.

HBV by the Numbers:

  • 1/3: Percent of the world’s total population that has ever been infected with hepatitis B virus
  • 45: Seconds passed before HBV claims its next victim
  • 60,000: Estimated number of people within the US who become infected with HBV each year
  • 1,000,000: People who die each year from liver disease caused by HBV
  • 350 million: Approximate number of people living with chronic HBV infection

What should I do?

  • Get tested: Ask your doctor for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and surface antibody (anti-HBs) tests for both yourself and your family. These are not routine and must be requested. If you are pregnant, ask your doctor for the HBsAg test to see whether you are infected.
  • Get vaccinated: If both your blood tests (HBsAg and anti-HBs) are negative, you have not been infected with hepatitis B. Get the 3-shot hepatitis B vaccination series to protect yourself for life from future infection. All newborns should receive the hepatitis B vaccine at birth.
  • Get involved: To learn about hepatitis B, support the Jade Ribbon Campaign by participating in your local Team HBV. Spread the word about our campaign by telling your friends and family. Proudly wear your Jade Ribbon pin and bracelet in demonstration of your support.

For the most complete information please check out http://liver.stanford.edu/Education/faq.html

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