Hepatitis B Symptoms
The virus can cause acute hepatitis. Less than 5% of infected children under the age of 5 and 30-60% of infected adults are symptomatic. Common presentations include fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, yellow colouring of the eyes, dark urine and clay coloured or light stools. Symptomatic or not, approximately 5-10% of adults and 95% of perinatally infected infants are unable to clear the virus, thus becoming chronic carriers. They may subsequently develop chronic hepatitis, permanent liver damage or liver cancer.
Mode of transmission
Hepatitis B virus can be found in blood and body fluids of an infected person and can be transmitted to others through the following ways:
- Mother to infant transmission at or around the time of delivery.
- Blood contact
I. By direct contact with contaminated blood
II. By sharing contaminated personal items such as toothbrushes, razors and nail cutters
III. By sharing contaminated needles
IV. By ear-piercing, tattooing or acupuncture using contaminated instruments
V. By transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products
- Sexual contact
Incubation Period of Hepatitis B
The incubation period ranges from 45-160 days. Symptoms usually occur within 3 months.
Treatments of Hepatitis B
For treatment of acute hepatitis, the patient should have adequate rest, balanced diet and avoid alcohol intake. Safer sex and practices to avoid transmission via blood contact should be encouraged. Minority of adults who might become chronic carriers should receive individualised medical care for chronic hepatitis B infection.
Preventions of Hepatitis B
- Avoid sharing syringes, razors, toothbrushes and other objects that may be contaminated with blood.
- Clean and dress wounds properly.
- Wear gloves while handling blood and body fluids.
- Disinfect objects contaminated with blood using household bleach diluted 4 times. (1 part of bleach with 4 parts of water)
- Take safety precautions before engaging in sexual activity.
- An effective vaccine against hepatitis B infection is available. The standard vaccination scheme is a 3-dose schedule administered at 0, 1, 6 months. Booster dose is usually not required for those who have completed a standard three-dose regimen.
- All babies born in Hong Kong are vaccinated. The birth dose is administered at birth in the hospital, while the second and third doses are given in Maternal & Child Health Centres. For babies born to carrier mothers, an additional hepatitis B immunoglobulin is given within 24 hours of birth to prevent transmission of infection from their mothers.