All that you should know about Hepatitis B

It is right to say the living without good liver health is difficult. The liver is needed for an array of functions. Some functions are

  • Storing of important biomolecules like vitamins and iron
  • Regulation of cholesterol
  • Removal of waste products and toxins
  • Digestion and absorption.

Hepatitis B is a dangerous viral infection that strikes at this important organ which is necessary for survival and good quality of life.

Common symptoms of Hepatitis B

  • Fever, fatigue, muscle or joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Pale or light- colored stools
  • Dark colored urine
  • Yellow eyes and skin

A person may have an acute attack which could last a few weeks. However, if the virus stays in the body, it can become a chronic infection that can lead to liver damage, liver cancer, and death.

Hepatitis B is considered to be a “silent epidemic” because many people do not have any symptoms and unknowingly spread the virus to others.

You may wonder if Hepatitis B spreads through contaminated needles and unprotected intercourse, how can your child be at risk of Hepatitis B?

  • Since hepatitis B can spread by coming in contact with blood or body fluids, it can even spread if an infected child bites your child.
  • It can also spread through sharing personal items like toothbrushes.

Why take a chance? Vaccination is the best way to protect your child from Hepatitis B. and getting him/ her vaccinated early in life is essential because if contracted early in life, may lead to chronic liver disease, in fact, infants and young children are the most likely to develop chronic infection2 and many children who have chronic Hepatitis B may develop severe complications like liver cirrhosis or cancer before adulthood.3

The hepatitis B vaccine is generally given in three doses, the first after birth, the next between 4-8 weeks and the third between the age of 6-18 months.4

Hepatitis B vaccine is both safe and effective (rates of antibodies against HBsAg (anti-HBs) are close to 100% in children and almost 95% in healthy young adults)2 however like any medicine it may cause some minor side-effects like redness, soreness or fever in some kids. You do not have to worry about this, as these are mild and will go away in a few days.  If your child misses a dose, then you should ask your doctor about catch-up vaccination.

 

References:

  1. J Clin Exp Hepatol. 2014 Dec; 4(4): 312–319.
  2. World J Hepatol. 2012 Mar 27; 4(3): 74–80.
  3. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 May;29(5):912-9. doi: 10.1111/jgh.12550
  4. http://acvip.org/professional/columns/iap-immunization- schedule-2016- table-form

 

 

 

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