New Wyoming Cases, 2015: 42
Hepatitis B is a blood borne pathogen that attacks and injures the liver; it is the most common cause of serious liver infection in the world. More than two billion people worldwide have been infected with the hepatitis B virus; in the United States alone, one out of every 20 people will become infected with hepatitis B at some point in their lives.
This disease is not as life-threatening as other infections, but can nevertheless cause many health issues such as liver inflammation, vomiting, jaundice, and, in extreme cases, death. Hepatitis B is spread by engaging in unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected; sharing needles or other drug supplies; accidental contact with infected blood; from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child; traveling to areas where hepatitis B is common (includes all countries except northern and western Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and North America except Mexico).
Fortunately, several vaccines have been developed to immunize against hepatitis B infection. There are also a number of precautions people can take to prevent spreading or contracting the virus: practice safe sex using lubricated latex condoms; do not share personal items that may have come in contact with infected blood (razors, toothbrushes, etc.); do not inject drugs, and never share drug paraphernalia; cover and avoid contact with sores and rashes; notify all medical personal (doctors and dentists) if you are infected; and follow routine barrier precautions if you are in the health or public safety sector.
Sixty-nine percent of those who are infected display no symptoms, leading hepatitis B to be known as the “silent infection.” For those who do experience symptoms, these may include abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle or joint pain, loss of appetite and mild nausea and vomiting.
Unlike hepatitis C, hepatitis B has a very high rate of recovery without medical intervention. Approximately 95% of infected people will rebound from a hepatitis B infection will not become chronically infected. However, there is still cause for concern as there are no drugs to cure a chronic infection, only to stop the virus from replicating and causing more severe damage to the liver. Being immunized against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B is still the most effective form of preventative treatment.