What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B often do not appear immediately, which allows HBV to silently damage the liver.
How common is hepatitis B?
The number of hepatitis B cases is a huge public health concern. It is estimated that there are more than 250 million carriers of the Hepatitis virus in the world. Of these, 500,000 annually die from hepatitis B-related liver disease. In the Philippines, around 1 in 10 people contract the disease. In most cases, the condition is left untreated because of the lack of information about the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B infection can be prevented by getting vaccinated. Hepatitis B vaccines are safe and highly effective. They are routinely given to newborns and children in the Philippines.
Hepatitis B infection can either be acute or chronic.
Acute hepatitis B
This type of infection may last less than six months. The immune system can usually clear out acute hepatitis B from the body.
Chronic hepatitis B
The diagnosis may change to chronic hepatitis B infection if the virus is not successfully treated within six months. This means that HBV lingers in the blood and liver, because the immune system is not able to fight it off. Chronic hepatitis B may last a lifetime and may lead to seriouscomplications if left untreated.
What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B?
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B take months to become apparent. They may appear 60-150 days after infection. But signs and symptoms of hepatitis B do not appear at all in most cases. When they do, it may be too late.
People with HBV may pass the virus to others regardless of whether or not they show signs and symptoms of hepatitis B.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B range from mild to severe. They include:
- Loss of appetite
- Aching of joints and muscles
- Low-grade fever
- Stomach pain
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the eyes (sclera) and skin (jaundice)
Consult your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of hepatitis B.