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3e.1 What is hepatitis B, and what are the risks of the disease?




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This article is from the Childhood Vaccinations FAQ, by Lynn Gazis-Sax lynng@alsirat.com with numerous contributions by others.

3e.1 What is hepatitis B, and what are the risks of the disease?

There are several forms of hepatitis, infections of the liver which
cause jaundice, nausea, and weakness. Hepatitis B is spread mainly by
contact with infected blood and by intimate contact with bodily
fluids, such as in sexual intercourse and childbirth. However, the
hepatitis B virus is far more resilient than, for example, the AIDS
virus, and the disease is not strictly a venereal disease, and can be
caught even by people who are not sexually active. Hepatitis B becomes
chronic in 5-10% of those infected. Complications include hepatic
necrosis, cirrhosis of the liver, chronic active hepatitis, and
hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatitis B is endemic throughout the
world, and a serious problem in groups at increased risk. Information
about hepatitis B is available by calling 1-800-HEP-B-873. Another
source of information about hepatitis B and many other forms of liver
disease is:


American Liver Foundation
1425 Pompton Avenue
Cedar Grove, NJ 07009

A source on hepatitis B in particular is:

Hepatitis B Coalition
1537 Selby Ave #229
St Paul, MN 55104
(612) 647-9009

There is also a hepatitis mailing list, HEPV-L on
LISTSERV@SJUVM.STJOHNS.EDU. A Web page on Diseases of the Liver can be
found at

http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/gi/disliv.html

A US government source of information on hepatitis is:

Hepatitis Branch Mailstop G37 CDC Atlanta, GA 30333 or call
the CDC Automated Voice Information System at (404) 332-2553.

Hepatitis B should not be confused with hepatitis A, which is more
contagious but less serious. Hepatitis A is spread through
contaminated food and water. Symptoms can be mild flulike symptoms or
severe nausea lasting for weeks. Hepatitis A does not become chronic
and is rarely fatal. Other forms of hepatitis include hepatitis C,
hepatitis D, and hepatitis E, and hepatitis (being a general term for
inflammation of the liver) can also be caused by certain
medications. Information on other kinds of hepatitis can be obtained
from the American Liver Foundation.

 

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