Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and is a serious, infectious disease. Hepatitis B can result in chronic liver infections leading to liver dysfunction, cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. While HBV is known as the most commonly found severe liver infection world over, it can be prevented with the HBV vaccination that is made available worldwide. Administration of the vaccine has resulted in a significant decrease in the occurrence of new infections world over.
Hepatitis B is found all over the world and is endemic in countries like south east Asia, Pacific islands, Africa, Northern Canada, Alaska,eastern Europe and Mediterranean region, south America, Greenland, etc.
Hepatitis B can be classified as Acute Hepatitis B (referring to new infections) and chronic Hepatitis B (where the infection in the liver lasts longer than six months). Chronic infections can stay with an infected person for life.Most adults who contract Hepatitis B get cured completely with a small margin of individuals that develop chronic infections. Infants, children and young adults are more at risk of developing chronic liver infections due to HBV.
In Myanmar, about 12 percent of the population or about 3.3 million of the population is reported to be infected with HBV and concerted efforts have been taken by the government to reduce the incidence of HBV and its associated liver diseases.
The symptoms of Hepatitis B start showing up in about one to four months after the individual is infected. The symptoms range from mild to severe and the infection itself can last from a number of weeks to months. Some of the common are –
- Nausea, vomiting with weakness and fatigue
- Dark, cola coloured urine and clay-like stools
- Pain in the joints
- Abdominal pain or pain in the liver region below the ribs
- Loss of appetite
- Itching and rashes all over the body
- Jaundice of the skin and the whites of the eyes
The symptoms of Hepatitis B are very similar to flu and at times, a large number of infected individuals are unable to detect HBV infections.
When should I see a doctor?
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical attention, and undergo tests that could determine HBV infection. If you know you have been exposed to the HBV virus, a preventive treatment could reduce the risks of further infection and spread of HBV.
Treatment of Hepatitis B in Myanmar
While there is a preventive vaccination against Hepatitis B, individuals who are already infected with a virus should seek immediate medical attention. A doctor will determine the nature of the infection as acute or chronic.
For acute Hepatitis B infections, doctors usually advise rest, with proper nutrition and hydration with fluids. In all chances, the infection will clear on its own. However, if you are diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis B infection, then doctors start treatment to reduce the possibility of liver disease and transmission to others. They will prescribe antiviral medication, and in severe cases, liver transplants.
Prognosis of Hepatitis B infections in Myanmar depend upon the type of infection it is (acute or chronic). Some individuals respond well to treatment with rapid improvement, while some have a more prolonged recovery. Some individuals suffer liver damage during the course of improvement, ultimately leading to death.
For individuals who contract chronic hepatitis B, complications like liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure can lead to death.
The Hepatitis B vaccination is a preventive measure against the virus. It is preferably administered to new born babies; however, children and adolescents who have not been vaccinated at birth should also take the vaccination.
The vaccination should also be taken by individuals with HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, liver function disorders and individuals with kidney diseases. Individuals who care for HBV infected persons, people employed in the healthcare sector that come in contact with blood, people with multiple sexual partners, partners of the same sex, and partners of individuals infected with HBV should also take the vaccination
People who have travelled, or are going to travel to areas designated as high HBV infected areas should also take the vaccine. Apart from these, people should be well informed about the risks of HBV and patterns of transmissions.