Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is a major global health problem. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982. The vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer due to hepatitis B. At the WHO African region 6.1% of the population is infected. In the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region (Which includes some of the north African Countries), 2% of the population is infected. HIV is an important occupational hazard for Health workers. However, it can be prevented through an effective and safe vaccine.
The Hepatitis B virus is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. The virus can be spread through sex with an infected person, injection drug use, and during birth form an infected mother to her baby.
In most cases, Hepatitis B is symptomless. In symptomatic cases, the patients might experience fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach upset, vomiting, grey stool, dark urine, joint pain, yellow skin and eyes. In some cases, the hepatitis B virus can also cause a chronic liver infection that can later develop into cirrhosis (a scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Therefore, care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with medicines, including oral antiviral agents. Treatment can slow the progression of cirrhosis, reduce incidence of liver cancer and improve long term survival. The best and easiest way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. The Hepatitis B vaccine is typically given as a series of 3 shots over a period of 6 months. The entire series is needed for long-term protection.