What is hepatitis B?

It  is an infection where the liver is inflamed due to an infection with the hepatitis B virus. There are many other viruses which may cause hepatitis (hepatitis A, hepatitis C, EBV, CMV…).



How is hepatitis B transmitted?

Sexual intercourse with an infected individual

Transfusion of contaminated blood

Infected mothers can transmit the infection to their child during delivery.

Sharing of syringes or needles or being stung by infected needles

Share contaminates surgical equipment: for example instruments used for tatooing and acupuncture needles.



What is the incubation period of hepatitis B?

3 to 6 months after infection



What are the signs and symptoms of hepatitis B?

The disease can be asymptomatic or can present with a severe disease of the liver.



An individual with acute hepatitis A can feel:

  • -general discomfort
  • -fever
  • -nausea
  • -loss of appetite
  • -brown urine
  • -jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)




Some individuals can show no signs or symptoms and ignore that they are infected until they are tested.



Why is hepatitis B so dangerous?

The majority of individuals with hepatitis B have few complications.

However, 5 to 10% of the population is unable to produce antibodies against the various and will become (chronic) carriers.

(Chronic) carriers of hepatitis B have a greater risk of developing liver cancer.



What are the antigens and antibodies of hepatitis B?

The antigens of hepatitis B are a part of the viral particle. These antigens can be detected with blood sampling.

The antibodies of hepatitis B are proteins produced by the body when it is exposed to the virus.

Antibodies eradicate the virus and enable long-term protection.



How is hepatitis B diagnosed?

Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by doing blood tests:

  • The antigen of hepatitis B: its presence signifies that the individual is infected and that he/her can contaminate others.
  • The antibody of hepatitis B: its presence signifies that the individual is immune (because specific antibodies have been produced).



Liver function tests enable to assess the activity of the liver.



Can hepatitis B be cured if we are a (chronic) carrier?

Drugs are available which enable some (chronic) carriers to get rid of the infection.

You should consult a specialist (infectious diseases, internist) to get more information.



What must I do if I am found to be a (chronic) carrier of the infection?

Regular follow-up with your doctor is necessary to measure the functional state of the liver and to detect effectively any cancerous change.

Sexual partners should do regular screening tests of the infection.

Pregnant women must inform their obstetrician so that preventive can be taken to avoid infecting the newborn.

Inform your doctor and your dentist if you have hepatitis B so that precautions can be taken when undergoing procedures.

Do not share personal things such as shavers, toothbrushes….as they may be contaminated by infected blood.

Use condoms when engaging in sexual intercourse to avoid infecting others.



What must I do if could be infected?

Do a blood test to screen for the presence of the virus.

Discuss the results with your doctor and vaccinate yourself if you are not infected.

(Chronic) carriers of hepatitis B do not need to be vaccinated.



Can I be vaccinated against hepatitis B?

Yes, an effective vaccine is available to protect yourself against hepatitis B.

It requires a series of three spaced-out injections.



Image credit: wikipedia (Jaundice)