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Hepatitis: An Overview 
 
by Valencia P. Higuera October 10, 2005

What is Hepatitis B?

Approximately 1.2 million Americans are infected with Hepatitis B. Similar to hepatitis A, type B is a liver infection caused the hepatitis B virus. This form of hepatitis is more serious. If left untreated, type B can cause serious and permanent liver damage. Individuals infected with hepatitis B have either an acute or a chronic form of the illness. Acute infections are generally short term and may not require medical attention. In fact, many who are infected with an acute infection are unaware of their condition. Symptoms may never present themselves. In addition, mild symptoms typically disappear within three weeks. Unlike other illnesses, once a person is infected and recovers from hepatitis B, they are unable to become infected for a second time. Our bodies will produce antibodies to the virus which prevent future infections.

Chronic hepatitis B is a more serious condition. These infections remain in the body for at least six months. During this period, a person is contagious. This sort of infection requires treatment. Those who do not receive treatment for chronic hepatitis B are placed at great risk for developing cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

Causes of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by certain medications and alcohol abuse. However, this virus is also transmitted through body fluids. In fact, hepatitis B is considered a sexually transmitted disease. Common causes of hepatitis B include:

Sexual contact (intercourse, anal sex, oral sex)

Sharing needles with an infected person (encountering an infected person’s blood)

Childbirth (mothers infected may transmit the virus to their unborn child)

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis B

Jaundice

Fatigue

Weakness

Loss of appetite

Nausea

Joint pain

Muscle pain

Skin rash

Vomiting

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