Hepatitis can be long-lasting, causing damage to the organ or liver cancer. The disease can be asymptomatic, but if you do experience symptoms, these may include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Fever of 38C (100.4F) or above
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Constant fatigue
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Skin irritation
- Decrease or loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Pale or greyish bowel movements
- Jaundice (yellow colour around eyes or on skin)
The Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted from an infected person through blood and bodily fluids such as saliva, semen and vaginal secretions. You can contract hepatitis B virus during unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex, or by sharing needles to inject drugs.
There is a good chance that your body’s immune system will be able clear a Hepatitis B infection. In the cases where it becomes chronic, the symptoms can become severe and cause long-term problems. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of getting liver damage, liver failure, or liver cancer.
In the majority of cases the human immune system is able to clear the infection from the body within 3 to 6 months and the patient remains immune to the virus for the rest of their life.
In 1 in 10 patients, hepatitis B will develop into chronic phase. Even in the chronic phase hepatitis B can remain asymptomatic and an infected person can spread the virus without knowing it. In other cases patients can develop persistent liver inflammation, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Yes, there has been a hepatitis B vaccine available sine the 1980s. It is usually only given to people who have a high risk of exposure. The vaccine consists of three injections which are given over a 4-6 month period.