Newswise — A simple blood test can detect if a person is one of the two billion people worldwide infected with hepatitis B. And now the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all teens and adults who are high risk for hepatitis B get screened for the infection.
“Many people with hepatitis B do not show any symptoms so they are not diagnosed which means they keep transmitting the disease to others,” says Steve Scaglione, MD, board certified hepatologist at Loyola University Health System. Hepatologists are specialists in treating liver disease. “Increased screening means the disease is diagnosed earlier, treated earlier and better controlled.”
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that is passed from person to person through blood and bodily fluids. There are two varieties of the disease: acute hepatitis B causes illness for a short term before recovery. Chronic hepatitis B is ongoing and can cause life–threatening liver damage.
“Advancements in treatment for hepatitis B are bring made but prevention and early diagnosis are still the best route for public health,” says Scaglione, who regularly treats hepatitis B patients at Loyola.
According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, up to 100,000 people in the United States get the virus each year, and 10 million to 30 million people in the world are infected.
Treatment for hepatitis B ranges from antiviral medication to stop the virus from multiplying to liver transplantation in cases of extreme illness. Hepatitis B can be transmitted if you:
• Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
• Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
• Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren't sterilized.
• Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
Individuals considered to be high risk for hepatitis B and who are recommended to be screened include:
• Adolescents and adults not vaccinated for Hepatitis B at birth.
• People born in countries with a high rate of hepatitis B infection.
These include Africa, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, China, the Middle
Eastern, Eastern Europe and the northern countries of South America such as
Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
• People whose parents were born in countries with a high rate of infection.
. People with HIV.
. People who inject drugs.
. Men who have sex with men.
. People who live with or have sex with someone with hepatitis B.
. Patients with weakened immune systems or who are receiving kidney dialysis.
A mother infected with hepatitis B can transmit the disease to her baby. Medication can be given to the child to prevent the infection from spreading.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include:
• Feeling very tired.
• Mild fever.
• Not wanting to eat.
• Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
• Belly pain.
• Diarrhea or constipation.
• Muscle aches and joint pain.
• Skin rash.
• Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually appears only after other
symptoms have started to go away.
The Loyola hepatology team offers treatment at 11 Loyola locations located in Illinois and also conducts research and research trials to improve prevention and treatment.