Initial infection with Hepatitis B can be asymptomatic, with no symptoms, or acute illness that can lead to hospitalization. The acute period can last up to 6 months or so. about 90 percent of those infected will kill the virus and clear it from their system within a few months, leaving no residual effects, and conferring long term immunity.
About 10 percent of victims become chronic, and the virus stays in the blood, affecting the liver long term, slowly destroying it, and causing liver failure or cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable. Symptoms of Hepatitis B infection can include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, joint pain, and abdominal pain.
Hepatitis B is 100 times easier to catch than HIV, due to its small size. It can live on surfaces for up to 10 days. It is transmitted by sexual contact, sharing needles, accidental contaminated needle sticks, and from mother to baby. It can also be spread through blood contact on open skin or sores.
chronic Hepatitis B victims can spread the virus to others, even if they do not look sick- by exposure to their blood or body fluids. It is not spread by handshakes, or other casual contact.
Hepatitis B does have a vaccine, which is 80 to 95 percent effective in conferring immunity with a 3 dose series. usually given over 6 months. It must be offered free to employees who have exposure to blood and body fluids.
Hepatitis B, and other common blood-borne infections are covered in AHA's Bloodborne Pathogen course. Contact us to arrange a course for your office.