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  About Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a serious disease that affects the liver and can cause chronic (lifelong) infection. Fortunately, most people who become infected with hepatitis B are able to overcome the virus without experiencing any major complications, clear the virus from their bloodstream and develop immunity. People who have not cleared their virus after six months and have progressive infection are considered to have chronic hepatitis B-a condition that often requires treatment to prevent further damage to the liver. Chronic hepatitis B can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and even death.
Hepatitis B facts:
-- In the U.S., approximately 1.25 million people are believed to have chronic hepatitis B, with approximately 10,000 Americans becoming chronically infected each year
-- There is a vaccine that can prevent hepatitis B
-- Between one-quarter and one-third of people with chronic hepatitis B are expected to develop progressive liver disease
-- Worldwide, chronic hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer
-- Chronic hepatitis B is the sixth leading cause of liver transplantation
-- Hepatitis B is 50 - 100 times more contagious than HIV
Living with Chronic Hepatitis B
There are people with chronic hepatitis B infection who may live with the virus without ever suffering any health problems, but some people may experience serious liver problems. The best way to prevent liver problems is to be aware of your condition and to work with your healthcare provider to manage your health.
When chronic hepatitis B infection does lead to liver problems, there are medications that can be used to fight the virus. Currently, there are two types of medications available for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B - antiviral drugs and interferon. Pegasys, pegylated interferon from Roche, has been studied in a small pilot study for hepatitis B with promising results, and a followup study is planned. Talk to your doctor to learn more about these medications and how they can be used to treat chronic hepatitis B infection.
People with chronic infection are carriers of hepatitis B and should be aware of certain activities that may put others at risk of infection.
The best way to prevent hepatitis B is vaccination. The second best way is education-knowing how hepatitis B can be spread and taking measures, as a person at risk or as a carrier of the virus, to prevent infection.
Ways people can become infected with hepatitis B
-- Unprotected sexual contact
-- Sharing needles, including hypodermic needles, tattoo needles and body piercing needles
-- Contact with contaminated bodily fluids, or items that have been exposed to bodily fluids, without proper protection
--Perinatally from mother to child
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