Hepatitis B afflicts roughly 5% of people worldwide. It is a serious liver ailment more prevalent in certain areas of Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Chronic infection due to hepatitis B virus (HBV) can result in life-threatening conditions such as cirrhosis or cancer of the liver.
Vaccinations are known preventive measures against the disease. Unfortunately, there are still no known cures for hepatitis B. Perhaps getting more information on hepatitis B and the threat it poses can help in ascertaining precautionary actions to avoid infection and prevent HBV from spreading.
Hepatitis B Virus Structure
It is amazing how viruses can be health-threatening given their infinitesimal size. A hepatitis B virus is just as small as the others and yet infection from it could lead to other serious diseases.
- Size – HBV is miniscule with a size of approximately double a ribosome’s size. Despite its small size, it can successfully dodge your immune system to target cells in the liver, which may later cause hepatitis.
- Shape – It is a sphere-shaped virus. Research show that its diameter measures about 42nm (where 1nm is equal to 0.000000001 meters).
- Composition – The virus has surface proteins that serve as its outer shell. An inner protein shell is found inside the outer coat. The inner protein shell is also known as the core particle, sometimes referred to as the capsid. The viral DNA is encapsulated within the core particle.
- Replication – HBV has the ability to replicate inside liver cells. It attacks the cells once it successfully evades your immune system. It latches on cell membranes and the virus’ core slips into the liver cell. It then puts its DNA contents into the cell’s nucleus that allows it to begin replicating. Virus copies created are later released into the blood stream where infection of healthier liver cells can occur. This makes its replication process more effective.
Methods of Infection
Hepatitis B is contagious and can potentially lead to serious liver ailment. Mild cases usually last for weeks or months while severe ones could be a long-term illness. Infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It occurs when body fluids such as blood or semen gains entry into an uninfected person’s body.
- Birth (occurs when the mother is infected and passes HBV to the child)
- Open wounds having direct contact with blood of someone with hepatitis B
- Sharing of needles or syringes with a person who is infected
- Skin piercings using unsterilized equipment
- Unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner who is infected
- Using an infected person’s personal effects such as razor or toothbrush
Signs and Symptoms of Hepatitis B
Not everyone who gets infected notices symptoms. Sometimes signs and symptoms could appear only after a few months. Others tend to notice symptoms only when the condition has evolved and become more severe. Unknowingly, they may be transmitting the illness to others especially if they remain unaware of their own infection.
- Dark urine
- Joint pains
- Pain in the abdomen
- Pale colored stools
Prevention is critical in mitigating hepatitis B virus infection. It is fairly easy to protect yourself from infection. You just need to do observe preventive measures and follow certain steps to ensure your protection against the disease.
- Always practice safe sex (use condoms)
- Avoid oral sex if a partner suffers from gum problems like bleeding or health conditions like ulcer
- Avoid sharing drug-injection equipment
- Get a Hepatitis B vaccination
- Never share personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, and spoons among others
- Never re-use gloves after cleaning body fluids or coming in contact with blood
- Observe caution when getting tattoos or body piercings
Hepatitis B Virus – Awareness Helps With Early Detection
Gaining a better awareness of hepatitis B and its impact to your health can be very useful in prevention and early detection. Hepatitis B is contagious, which makes it very important to know if you have it. This can help minimize the risk of infecting others. The best thing to do after a possible exposure is to immediately consult with your doctor. A doctor can provide the necessary treatment that can help in reducing infection risks. The main purpose of treatment for hepatitis B would be to contain the virus’ replication to minimize risk of liver damage.