Hepatitis B (Serum Hep.): signs and symptoms, mode of transmission, management and prevention

Introduction

It is a sexually transmitted, as well as blood-borne disease caused by a DNA virus. The virus is known as hepadnavirus and can cause both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis.

Causative organism: Hepatitis B virus.

Incubation period: between 45 and 180 days.

Mode of transmission

  • Injection given with needles contaminated by body fluids of infected persons or carriers.
  • Sexual intercourse with infected person.
  • Kissing with infected persons may spread it since the virus is present in saliva.
  • Transfusion with infected blood.
  • Carrier mothers can transmit to their new born during the birth process.
  • Indirectly from exudates from the skin ulcers of infected persons.
  • Sweat and tears of infected persons have also been found to contain the virus.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Prodromal period of headache, malaise, nausea, anorexia and fever for 2-14 days.
  • Followed by vomiting and pain in the right hypochondria.
  • Jaundice appears with variable severity after prodromal symptoms subside.
  • Dark urine and pale stools.
  • In most cases patient may recover completely, but there may be relapse.
  • Clinically it may be difficult to distinguish between the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A and B.

Management

  • There is no known treatment. Treatment is symptomatic since it is caused by a virus.
  • Care providers should understand the clients, avoid being judgmental (most people attribute it to promiscuity) and give assurance of good care to them.
  • Ensure enough rest.
  • Give plenty of fluid especially glucose drinks, fruit drinks, water, rice water.
  • Give a lot of vitamin rich foods.

Prevention and control

  • Encourage abstinence until marriage and partners should be faithfully to each other to reduce the risk of being infected.
  • Avoid unnecessary' casual sex exposure.
  • Use condom for casual sexual intercourse if it cannot be avoided.
  • Visit qualified institutions for health care to prevent contaminated articles being used for your treatment.
  • Sharp and piercing instruments should be sterilized after use.
  • Blood should be well screened before transfusion.
  • All children should be given active immunization against the disease with DPT/HibHepB vaccine.
  • Care providers and health care workers at risk should be give Hepatitis B vaccine.
  • People who get exposed to the virus should be given passive immunity with hepatitis B immune vaccine.
  • Some persons become life-long carriers and so must be educated to prevent infecting others.

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