Infection of the liver caused by Hepatitis B virus. This can be serious and long-lasting which occasionally lead to liver damage that is often fatal.
The incubation period ranges from 40 to 160 days, with an average of 60 to 90 days. Symptoms usually start mild with fever, loss of appetite, pain in the right upper-part of abdomen, diarrhoea although body malaise is profound. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) only occurs in about 10% of younger children and in 30 to 50% of adults. There will also be darkening of urine and lightening of stools.
Mostly occurs through casual sexual intercourse, blood to blood contact through percutaneous exposure of contaminated needles, razors, and other drug equipment, perinatal transmission from mother to child. Bites from infected person is rare.
Healthcare workers in the UK are usually required to have good level of Hepatitis B immunity.
There is a worldwide risk with around 250 million people infected with chronic Hepatitis B (WHO 2017). High prevalence regions include sub-Saharan Africa, most of Asia and the Pacific islands. Intermediate-prevalence regions include the Amazon, southern parts of Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. Low-prevalence regions include most of Western Europe and North America.
The Hepatitis B vaccine is given as a single or combined product. Available vaccines are highly effective in preventing infection in children and most adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is also highly effective at preventing infection if given shortly after exposure. Ideally, immunisation should commence within 24 hours of exposure, although it should still be considered up to a week after exposure. Vaccines are inactivated, do not contain live organisms and cannot cause the diseases against which they protect.