Hepatitis B: Risks, Treatment and Prevention

After an Assisted Living Center in Mount Olive, N.C., was fined $16,000 for causing the outbreak of Hepatitis B in which six of their patients died, the Obama administration has begun an intensive information drive to discuss the risks of Hepatitis B as well as prevention and treatment of the illness. His focus is on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, because of the prevalence of the disease in those communities.

Here are the facts about Hepatitis B.

* Hepatitis B is an irritation and swelling of the liver due to an infection with the Hepatitis B virus. It is a contagious virus that can cause severe liver problems.

* The liver removes harmful chemicals from the blood, fights infection, digests food and stores energy, as well as vitamins and nutrients. Without the liver, you cannot exist.

* Hepatitis B can lead to liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes permanent scarring of the liver.

* There is no cure for Hepatitis B, though there is a vaccine to prevent the disease.

* Possible ways of spreading Hepatitis B include direct contact with blood in a hospital setting (such as what happened in the case in Mount Olive when medical technicians reused diabetes pens), sexual contact with a person that has the infection, tattoos or acupuncture that involve unclean needles, sharing needles during drug use, and sharing personal items that come in contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.

* Symptoms of the disease typically occur two to three months after becoming infected.

* Some of the signs and symptoms of the infection include abdominal pain, dark urine, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, joint pain, weakness and fatigue, yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes that give an appearance of jaundice.

* Some infants as well as adults never experience the symptoms even if they are infected with the disease. If you think you have come in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the infection, it is important to contact your doctor immediately.

* Healthy people still may need to be screened for Hepatitis B if they fall under the following circumstances: people who are HIV-positive, immigrants from areas of the world where the disease is prevalent; such as, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe and Africa as well as children of parents from these areas.

* You should also be screened if you suspect a person you have had sex with has the infection, if you are an injection drug user or a prison inmate, a man who has had sex with a man, if you receive kidney dialysis or if you are a pregnant woman.

* Screening for Hepatitis B in Belle Glade is done via a blood test If it is determined that you have the infection, liver tests will be performed to gauge the damage that has been done to the organ.

* If you are diagnosed with the illness, you may receive antiviral medications to help prevent further damage to your liver. If your liver is already severely damaged, a liver transplant may be the only option.


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