2015 Kentucky Conference on Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis: The Silent Epidemic in Kentucky Presentations
Kentucky Rural Health Association, in partnership with Kentucky Department for Public Health Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program and Kentucky Immunization Program, is proud to present
Hepatitis: The Silent Epidemic in Kentucky
July 24, 2014
Hepatitis B is a disease caused by a highly infectious virus that attacks the liver. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection can lead to severe illness, liver damage and, in some cases, death.
Who is at Risk?
Hepatitis B is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages in the United States and around the world. Each year, more than 240,000 people contract hepatitis B in the United States. About one out of 20 people in the United States will get hepatitis B sometime during their lives. If you engage in certain behaviors, your risk for hepatitis B may be much higher. You may be at risk for hepatitis B if you:
- Have a job that exposes you to human blood (health care provider).
- Share a household with someone who has HBV infection.
- Inject drugs.
- Have sex with a person infected with HBV.
- Have sex with more than one partner during a six-month period.
- Men who have sex with men.
- Infants born to HBV infected mothers.
- Received blood transfusions in the past before excellent testing was available (1975).
- Are a person whose parents were born in Asia, Africa, the Amazon Basin in South America, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe or the Middle East.
- Were born in an area listed above.
- Were adopted from an area listed above.
- Are an Alaska native.
- Have hemophilia.
- Have a job that involves contact with human blood.
- Are a patient or worker in an institution for the developmentally disabled.
- Are an inmate of a long-term correctional facility.
- Travel internationally to areas with a high incidence of hepatitis B.
How Hepatitis B Is Spread
HBV is found in blood and certain body fluids of people infected with HBV, fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. Contact with even a small amount of blood can cause infection. Hepatitis B is not found in sweat, tears, urine or respiratory secretions.
Hepatitis B Can Be Spread By:
- Unprotected sex.
- Injecting drug use.
- During birth from mother to child.
- Contact with blood or open sores of an infected person.
- Human bites.
- Sharing a household with an infected person.
- Sharing items such as razors, toothbrushes or washcloths.
- Pre-chewing food for babies, or sharing chewing gum.
- Using unsterilized needles or other instruments in ear or body piercing, tattooing or acupuncture.
- Use of the same immunization needle on more than one person.
The Symptoms Of Hepatitis B
Most people who get hepatitis B as babies or children don’t look or feel sick at all. Over half of adults who get hepatitis B never have any symptoms of signs of the disease. You may have hepatitis B (and be spreading the disease) and not know it. If people do have signs or symptoms, they may experience any or all of the following:
- Loss of appetite.
- Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice).
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Weakness, tiredness, inability to work for weeks or months.
- Abdominal pain and/or joint pain.
- Dark urine.
How Hepatitis B Is Diagnosed And Treated
The only way to know if you are infected with hepatitis B, have recovered or are a chronic carrier is by having a blood test done at your physician’s office or health care provider. There is no cure for hepatitis B; this is why prevention is so important. People diagnosed with hepatitis B should see their physician regularly for follow-up care.
How Hepatitis B Can Be Prevented
Hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection against HBV. Three doses of this vaccine are needed for complete protection.
All pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B early in their pregnancy. If the blood test is positive, the baby should receive the vaccine along with hepatitis B immune globulin at birth. The vaccine series for the baby should be completed during the first six months of life.
Who Should Get Vaccinated
- All babies, at birth.
- All children 11 – 12 years of age who have not been vaccinated.
- Persons of any age whose behavior puts them at high risk for HBV infection.
- Persons whose jobs expose them to human blood.
For more information about Hepatitis B virus, contact your health care provider, local health department or the Kentucky Department for Public Health at (502) 564-3261.