Hepatitis B is
a liver disease caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Hepatitis
B is one of the most common forms of
viral hepatitis, which includes
hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. But hepatitis has many
other causes, including some medicines, long-term alcohol use, fatty deposits
in the liver, and exposure to certain industrial chemicals.
How HBV is spread
HBV is spread when blood,
semen, or vaginal fluids (including menstrual blood)
from an infected person enter another person's body, usually in one of the
When you're living with a disease like hepatitis C, it's natural to want to try any treatment possible to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Standard hepatitis C treatment has come a long way towards curing the disease. However, the drugs don't always work and they can have side effects.
For some patients with the disease, hepatitis C complementary and alternative treatment offers another option. "One of the things I always say is that, obviously, Western medicine does not have...
Sexual contact. The hepatitis B virus can
enter the body through a break in the lining of the
urethra, or mouth. Sexual contact is the most
important risk factor for the spread of HBV in North America.
Sharing needles. People who share needles and other equipment (such as cotton,
spoons, and water) used for injecting illegal drugs may inject HBV-infected
blood into their veins.
Work-related exposure. People who handle
blood or instruments used to draw blood may become infected with the virus.
Health care workers are at risk of becoming infected with the virus if they are
accidentally stuck with a used needle or other sharp instrument contaminated
with an infected person's blood. Infection also can occur if blood splashes
onto an exposed surface, such as the eyes, mouth, or a cut in the
Childbirth. A newborn baby can get the virus from his or her
mother during delivery when the baby comes in contact with the mother's body
fluids in the birth canal (perinatal transmission). But breast-feeding does not
transmit the virus from a woman with HBV to her child.
piercings and tattoos. HBV may be spread when needles used for body piercing or
tattooing are not properly cleaned (sterilized) and HBV-infected blood enters a
Toiletries. Grooming items such as razors and
toothbrushes can spread HBV if they carry blood from a person who is infected
with the virus.
In the past, blood transfusions were a common means of
spreading HBV. Organ transplants could also spread the disease. Today, all
donated blood and organs in the United States are screened for the virus, so it
is extremely unlikely that you could become infected with the virus from a
blood transfusion or organ transplant.
Contagious and incubation periods
an average of 60 to 90 days (although they can appear 45 to 180 days) after you
have contact with the hepatitis B virus (incubation period). Blood, semen, and vaginal fluids (including menstrual blood),
whether fresh or dried, are highly contagious (HBV can be easily spread) during
this period and for several weeks after the onset of symptoms.
Blood contains the highest quantities of the
hepatitis B virus.
Blood and other body fluids that contain the
virus can remain contagious for at least a week and possibly much longer, even
if they are dried.
If you have a short-term HBV (acute) infection, you
usually cannot spread the virus after
antibodies against the surface
antigen of HBV appear. This generally takes several
weeks. If you have a long-term (chronic) HBV infection, you are able to spread
the virus as long as you have an active infection.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
October 15, 2007
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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