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Digestive Diseases and Hepatitis B

How Is Hepatitis B Treated? continued...

People with chronic hepatitis are treated with a combination of drugs. These include:

  • Interferon. The immune system-boosting medicine interferon alpha is injected for at least 6 months. This drug does not cure the disease, but improves liver inflammation. Long-acting interferon (peginterferon) has also been shown to be useful. Interferon does have some undesirable side effects, including: malaise, depression, and loss of appetite, and it can lower the number of white blood cells.
  • Epivir. This drug is taken orally once a day. Usually, the drug is well-tolerated. Viral mutations often arise after prolonged use.
  • Hepsera. This drug works well in people whose disease doesn't respond to Epivir but, in high doses it can cause kidney problems.
  • Baraclude. This is the newest drug for hepatitis B.
  • Viread. Monitoring kidney function is needed with this treatment.

Hepatitis B and Pregnancy

A pregnant woman can spread the hepatitis B virus to her baby at the time of birth. It is unlikely that an infected woman will spread the virus to her baby during pregnancy.

If not treated, many babies infected with hepatitis B develop long-term liver problems. All newborn babies from hepatitis B-infected mothers should be given hepatitis B immune globulin and the vaccine for hepatitis at birth and during their first year of life.

How Can I Prevent Getting Hepatitis B or Spreading It?

To help keep hepatitis B infection from spreading:

  • Get vaccinated (if you have not already been infected).
  • Use condoms every time you have sex.
  • Wear gloves when touching or cleaning up body secretions of others on personal items, such as bandages/Band-Aids, tampons, and linens.
  • Cover all open cuts or wounds.
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes, manicuring tools, or pierced earrings with anyone.
  • Do not share chewing gum or pre-chew food for a baby.
  • Make certain that any needles for drugs, ear piercing, or tattooing are properly sterilized.
  • Clean areas with blood on them with one part household bleach and 10 parts water.

Can I Get Hepatitis B From Blood Transfusions?

The chance of becoming infected with hepatitis B from receiving blood transfusions is unlikely because donated blood is tested for the virus. Any infected blood is discarded.

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