Hepatitis B Virus: The Little-Known Highly Contagious Dane Particle

Posted On September 21, 2020

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by Privitest and Dr Ayalogu Chidimma

Key facts about Hepatitis B

  • Hepatitis B disease is caused by a virus and attacks the liver. When one is infected, it can lead to both acute and chronic forms of Hepatitis B viral disease.
  • The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids, including sex with an infected partner, injection-drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment and needle sticks or exposures to sharp instruments.
  • WHO estimates that in 2015, 257 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen-positive).
  • In 2015, hepatitis B resulted in an estimated 887 000 deaths, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (i.e. primary liver cancer).
  • As of 2016, 27 million people (10.5% of all people estimated to be living with hepatitis B) were aware of their infection, while 4.5 million (16.7%) of the people diagnosed were on treatment. According to the latest WHO estimates, the proportion of children under five years of age chronically infected with HBV dropped to just under 1% in 2019 down from around 5% in the pre-vaccine era ranging from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
  • Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available, and effective.
  • According to the World Health Organization, Sub-Saharan Africa, and The Western Pacific regions account for about 68% of all chronic hepatitis B infections.
  • Nigeria, with an estimated population of 190 million people, has a Hepatitis B prevalence of 8.1% according to a recent Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey(NAIIS) report
  • In Nigeria alone, there could be about 15 million people who are unaware that they are infected. This portends a serious danger as some of the people who are infected but have no knowledge may go on to develop liver diseases including primary liver cancer.

(A conversation ensues between two stoners; Shawn and Rica, that uses alongside their five other friends)

Rica: My best buddy!!…how are you doing. Still showing up for today’s round?

Shawn: Arrrh!.. am not so sure about that

Rica: What!!!!!.. how do you mean you aren’t so sure. Is there anything bothering you? Talk to me. I might just be able to help.

Shawn: This morning, while I washed my face I noticed this yellowish tinge my white eye had…it hasn’t been there before. It got me really scared. Meanwhile two weeks back, I had this feeling of unwellness that lingered for some days. It was a combination of this headache I haven’t had in a while plus mild pains around my thighs and arm, then I also lost my appetite for food; including my favourite chicken wings!!!!!. (sighs deeply)

Rica: ( Totally shocked at what she just heard) Wow!!!!!! If you couldn’t take chicken wings for any reason then there is definitely a problem buddy

Shawn: (gives off this peculiar smile and then continues) I actually shrugged it off. I didn’t want to think too much about the whole thing. Besides somehow is faded off and then I didn’t want to get my parents involved. You know how they are; all strict and religious. They would have definitely pinned it to my lifestyle and I doubt they would even give me any attention at all. I mean we always had arguments all the time about my life and my friends. I just didn’t want any of that.

But now this! This colouration that I have!!! Am super terrified and I don’t know how to go about it.

Rica: ( Making frantic efforts to calm her friend) Shawn…Shawn….., just listen to me. I know you have every reason to be scared at this point. But then I think I can help you. I heard of this platform not too long ago. It’s called privitest.com. There they provide a guide for you to properly identify which test that is necessary for you to do. No one else has to know. They give you the optimal privacy you require. They also provide online consultation for further counselling and guide. We can figure it out together I promise to be always there for you.

Shawn: (almost in tears) I don’t know what I would have done without you. Thank you so much.

Rica: I honestly think what is happening to you right now has to do with the fact we share needles during our rounds. I think we should explore Privi Test to educate ourselves more on related conditions, risk factors, and probably management. That way we can live a safer life.

Shawn: ( Hugs rica tightly) Thank you.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. If the liver is inflamed, the roles it plays in the body will be adversely affected. Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus. People infected with the Hepatitis B virus may be sick for a few weeks known as “Acute Infection” or it may progress to a lifelong infection known as “Chronic Hepatitis B infection”

Hepatitis B is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease and primary cancer of the liver worldwide. Approximately one-third of the world’s population has serological evidence of past or current infection with hepatitis B and approximately 350 – 400 million people are chronic HBsAg carriers. Hepatitis B may cause acute viral hepatitis; however, acute infection is often without symptoms particularly when acquired at birth. Many individuals with chronic hepatitis do not also have symptoms.

What is acute Hepatitis B infection?

Someone is said to have acute hepatitis b infection also known as short term infection when the person falls ill within the first 6months after exposure to the virus. Some may have little or no symptoms while others may experience severe symptoms that may require hospitalization

What is chronic Hepatitis B infection?

Acute hepatitis B infection may lead to chronic hepatitis B infection over time. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, some people who get infected in their adulthood may recover completely without treatment. Over time, chronic hepatitis B infection may lead to liver damage, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and may progress to death. Age plays a role in whether an individual will develop chronic hepatitis B infection. The younger a person is when infected, the greater the chances that it will lead to a chronic infection.

Hepatitis B virus is a DNA virus with a polymerase enzyme for virus replication. It has a core protein that makes up the core part of the virus usually found in the liver but not in the blood known as Hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg). A surface protein that makes up the viral envelope that circulates in the blood known as Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). It’s a marker for current infection. Another antigen known as Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) which is part of the HBcAg that can be found in the blood and indicates infectivity and active replication of the virus.

How does one get infected?

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA can be found in saliva, urine, semen, and vaginal secretions. The virus is about ten times more infectious than hepatitis C, which in turn is about ten times more infectious than HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). That’s an alarming rate of infectivity. Individuals are most infectious when certain markers of viral replication such as HBeAg and high levels of Hepatitis B virus DNA are present in the blood.

The commonest route of transmission is through sexual intercourse (homosexual and heterosexual) which is classified under horizontal transmission. Other forms of horizontal transmission include:

– Injection drug use

-Infected unscreened blood products

– Tattoos/acupuncture needles

-Close living quarters/playground play as a toddler(May contribute to high rate of horizontal transmission in Africa)

The source of hepatitis B infection determines the risk of progression to chronic liver disease. For the horizontal means of transmission, they have a 10% risk of progressing to chronic liver disease.

Vertical source of transmission includes transmission of the virus to a child during vaginal birth in an Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive mother. And these children have a 90% risk of progressing to chronic liver disease.

Who is at risk?

– Men who have sex with men

– close contact of infected individuals; newborn of infected mother’s, regular sexual partners

– patients on chronic haemodialysis

– patients with chronic liver disease

– Medical, nursing and laboratory personnel

– intravenous drug users

– People with multiple sexual partners

How to prevent Hepatitis B virus infection?

The predominant means of preventing hepatitis B virus infection is by vaccination using a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine containing HBsAg commonly known as Engerix. This is known to produce active immunization in 95% of normal individuals. The vaccine is ineffective in those already infected by HBV.

girl getting vaccinated against hepatitis b virus

Vaccination against Hepatitis B virus

Infection can also be prevented or minimised by intramuscular injection of hyperimmune serum globin prepared from blood containing anti- HBs. This is given within 24 hours or at most a week of exposure to infected blood.

Babies born to hepatitis B infected mother’s should be immunised at birth and a serum HBV check should be conducted.

HEPATITIS B VIRUS INFECTION

Usually, in all forms of hepatitis viral infections(hepatitis A, B, C, D, E) they cause similar illnesses with similar clinical symptoms and signs. They differ in their tendency to cause either an acute or chronic infection. it’s usually ushered in by a non-specific prodromal illness characterised by

Headaches

Myalgia (pain in the muscles or group of muscles)

Arthralgia (pain in the joints)

Nausea and anorexia (lack of loss of appetite for food)

These above symptoms usually come a few days to two weeks before the appearance of yellowish discoloration of the sclera. One might also start passing dark urine and pale stools. Vomitting and diarrhoea may follow, abdominal discomfort is quite common.

angry hepatitis b virus, viral diseases

What do I do when I suspect that am likely infected?

The first step is definitely to meet a doctor or you could get yourself tested in a trusted and reliable laboratory. Diagnosis by a doctor usually starts with getting a good history based on the patient’s symptoms, social history (use of recreational drugs and route of intake, etc), and sexual activities. Usually, on examination, the liver is often tender and minimally enlarged. Occasionally there could also be an enlarged spleen and inflammed cervical lymph nodes.

Hepatitis B virus infection can be diagnosed using a blood sample. There are certain antigens(components) of the virus as well as Antibodies produced by your body’s immune system that is being looked out for in this sample. The presence of these antigens and antibodies is dependent on the phase of infection.

Direct assessment of the copies of the virus present in the sample can be ascertained as well using a technique known as Polymerase Chain Reaction. This is particularly important in monitoring diagnosed patients on antiviral therapy.

Treatment

Hepatitis B virus infection can cause symptoms which will resolve after a short while usually referred to as acute hepatitis B. It can as well cause symptoms that run a longer course in this case referred to as chronic hepatitis B. So depending on which one is the case, treatment varies.

Are you suffering from acute or chronic hepatitis?

Just like we mentioned above, about tendencies of progressing from an acute to chronic disease state condition depending on the route of transmission. In the same line, certain health conditions increase once risk of having the infection. States of immunodeficiency for example people suffering from HIV, people on chronic steroid use, and so on.

Treatment in acute hepatitis is generally supportive with constant monitoring of the state of the liver through the use of certain tests. Recovery from acute HBV infection occurs within 6 months. If the viral HBeAg persists beyond this time then it indicates chronic infection.

In chronic infections, treatment is still limited as no drug is able to consistently eradicate hepatitis B infection completely.

Two main different classes of antiviral drugs used in the treatment are direct-acting nucleoside/nucleotide analogues such as Lamivudine, Entecavir, etc and regulated interferon-alpha

Ooops.. totally forgive me for the jargon, simply put these two classes of drugs interferes with the viral cell life cycle and as well augment one’s native immune system response respectively.

Giving one a new liver by transplantation is an acceptable treatment option as well.

Conclusion

But you know what,

Too many people literally spend their time thinking about the symptoms they have.

Let’s face it…

Hepatitis B can be perfectly managed and you can live your normal life if you are diagnosed early and visit the hospital as at when due.

And You can actually develop immunity against the virus by being vaccinated and you won’t have to worry about getting infected.

So why not get screened for the virus and get vaccinated against the deadly and highly infectious virus

Phew, you stayed till the end, Congratulations.

What if I told you that you can anonymously get tested for Hepatitis B in Nigeria or better still buy a Hepatitis B self-test kit in Nigeria.

At Privitest.com, you can get tested for different STI’s anonymously such as Gonorrhoea, Hepatitis B, Chlamydia, HIV.

  • You choose your test package,
  • You Choose a Laboratory/Hospital closest to you ( We have thousands of laboratories and hospitals)
  • You pay online, get an order ID
  • Go to the chosen centre and show them your order ID
  • There is no need interacting with anyone or telling them which medical test brought you there
  • Samples are collected from you e.g. Blood, Urine
  • You go home
  • Your result will be uploaded into your Privitest account
  • You only need a phone number to create an account. No email or name is require.

Or you can order for our STD self test kit package.

Author profile
Hepatitis B Virus: The Little-Known Highly Contagious Dane Particle
Dr Ayalogu Chidimma

Ayalogu Chidimma had her MBBS degree from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka with extensive experience in hospital and clinical settings. She has interests in young people sexual health with more emphasis on the female folks

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