Five Important Things You Should Know About Hepatitis B
Blog Contributed By: Anna Manko, PhD and Carla Coffin, MD, MSc | Canadian HBV Network, University of Calgary
July 28th marks World Hepatitis Day. This year’s theme is Hep Can’t Wait, highlighting the need to accelerate hepatitis elimination efforts and the importance of testing and treatment. Globally, someone dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness.
One of the most common forms of viral hepatitis is hepatitis B. Read on to learn more about this liver disease, including prevention and treatment.
(1) Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus is the number one global cause of severe liver damage (cirrhosis) and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
(2) The hepatitis B virus is transmitted by direct (very close) contact with blood and certain body fluids of an infected person. Most people who have a chronic (or life-long infection) are infected as infants (transmitted during childbirth) or in early childhood.
(3) Hepatitis B is a silent epidemic. Most people living with life-long hepatitis B have no symptoms. It is important that you ask your health care provider if you should get tested for hepatitis B. Testing is the only way to know if you have hepatitis B and whether you need treatment.
(4) Hepatitis B is preventable. There is a vaccine that can protect you against hepatitis B. All babies should be vaccinated because very young infants are at the highest risk of developing a life-long infection if they are exposed.
(5) Hepatitis B is treatable. There are very good drugs that cannot cure but they can help prevent development of severe liver disease. You can work in any occupation, have a family, and expect to enjoy a normal, long, and healthy life. There is hope that someday we will find a cure for hepatitis B.