Infection with Hepatitis B

Every year, 2,000 people in the Netherlands are infected with Hepatitis B due to unsafe sex. This puts this STD in fifth place on the list of most common STDs in the Netherlands. Hepatitis comes in different types. In this article you can read what Hepatitis B is, how you can become infected and what the symptoms and consequences can be. Hepatitis B is a serious infectious disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus and is highly contagious.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a serious infectious disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus. The virus causes inflammation in the liver cells. The disease can be transmitted through unsafe sex and can therefore be an STD. The complaints depend on the severity of the inflammation and sometimes the complaints do not occur at all. The disease is highly contagious. The irus is found in the blood, but also in body substances, such as semen and vaginal fluid. Of these three, blood is the most contagious. Risk of infection is possible through sexual contact, blood-blood contact and at birth, when the mother is infected with the virus.

Symptoms / complaints

Two out of three infected people have little to no complaints. One in three infected people will suffer from the following complaints between two weeks and six months after infection:

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Itch
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

After the complaints have manifested, jaundice may also occur. The whites of the eyes, and sometimes also the skin, turn yellow. The urine becomes very dark and the stool very light. Complaints can last for several weeks to months. Once the symptoms have disappeared, you may still suffer from fatigue for months. When the virus has disappeared from the body, the liver automatically recovers from the inflammation and all complaints disappear. In adults this happens in nine out of ten cases. In the other cases, people suffer from chronic Hepatitis B.

Chronic Hepatitis B

Sometimes the liver remains inflamed and the symptoms regularly return. If this is the case, it is chronic Hepatitis B. In 5 to 10 percent of all cases, the virus remains in the body for years, and sometimes even for life. In that case, the body does not produce antibodies to neutralize the virus. We call such a person a carrier of Hepatitis B. They can go through life without complaints, but they always remain contagious to others.
A chronic infection can have lasting consequences, unlike regular Hepatitis that is treated in time.
All chronic Hepatitis B carriers run the risk of a poorly functioning liver, liver cirrhosis (scarring on the liver) and liver cancer. It happens that the body’s own immune system spontaneously removes the virus from the body after years, but this is rare.

Therapy

An examination by a doctor must determine whether you have indeed been infected with Hepatitis B and whether any possible complaints may arise from this. This examination is done using a blood test and in some cases also a physical examination. There are no medicines yet for acute Hepatitis B. This should go away on its own, although this may take months. Harmful consequences can be limited by taking as much rest as possible. It is better not to consume alcohol or foods that you cannot tolerate, such as fat. Medication use should also be limited as much as possible. Only use the medications your doctor prescribes (if possible). For chronic Hepatitis B, the doctor can prescribe treatment with a medication. In 45 percent of these cases, the complaints disappear.

Preventing contamination

  • Pretty always safe.
  • You can be vaccinated against Hepatitis B. You will receive three injections, which protect you in 95 percent of all cases.
  • Avoid contact with the blood of others. Also consider razor blades or tweezers, for example.
  • When you use needles or syringes, never use someone else’s, but always use a clean new one.
  • If you practice a medical profession, always avoid needlestick incidents, etc

 

Antibody against Hepatitis B

If you have been exposed to the Hepatitis B virus, you may be given antibodies. This is only possible within 48 hours of possible contamination, such as a needlestick incident or the tearing of a condom. After birth, a baby born to an infected mother is immediately given antibodies and a vaccination against Hepatitis B. Even if the baby’s father is a carrier of the virus, it is recommended to vaccinate the baby against the virus. In that case, administration of antibodies is not necessary.

Sex and Hepatitis

Hepatitis B is transmitted through sex. It is therefore important to always have safe sex. If you are infected and have a permanent partner, the partner can be vaccinated against the virus. In most cases, the vaccination against Hepatitis B is fully reimbursed by the health insurance fund for partners, family members and housemates of the carrier. Only six months after an examination can it be determined whether you are indeed infected with Hepatitis. Always use a condom during this six months, even during oral sex. Normal social contacts do not entail any risk of infection. Kissing is also safe, but only if there are no cold sores or open sores in the mouth.
If the test shows that you have indeed been infected with the Hepatitis B virus, it is in some cases necessary to inform the people you have had sex with or who you may have infected in any other way in the past year. Your doctor can tell you whether this is necessary or not.

Jaundice

Hepatitis is also called jaundice. Jaundice is a consequence of an inflamed liver and therefore does not mean that Hepatitis is the cause of jaundice. Jaundice can also be caused by other inflammations in the liver. Jaundice can therefore occur as a result of Hepatitis, but does not necessarily indicate a Hepatitis infection.

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