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STD 12 continued...

Answer:

Only half of people who get hepatitis B infection have symptoms. On the other hand, there may other symptoms besides the ones you mention. Some people get rashes or joint pain in the early stages of infection. Some get jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. About one in 100 people get sudden liver failure and may suddenly collapse with fatigue. Symptoms may first appear six weeks to six months after infection.

Having multiple sex partners is a major risk factor for hepatitis B infection. Also at risk are men who have sex with men, injection drug users and their sex partners, and household contacts of people with chronic infection.

The good news is that the vast majority of adults who become infected with hepatitis B will clear the infection on their own. But 2% to 6% of infected adults get chronic, lifelong infection. That's why it's important to see a doctor if you're at risk for hepatitis B infection.

The bad news is there is no specific treatment. Antiviral medications can keep the virus at bay and may even put hepatitis B liver disease into remission.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine. It's now routine for infants; since 1996 more than 80% of U.S. infants have been getting the vaccine. If your sexual behavior puts you at risk of hepatitis B infection, you should get vaccinated.

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Reviewed on March 02, 2009

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