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Recently Diagnosed with Hepatitis B? Getting Through the Next Months Waiting to Confirm if Your Infection is Acute or Chronic

Have you recently been told you have hepatitis B?  Dealing with the diagnosis and waiting out the next six months to determine if your infection will resolve itself or learning that it is a chronic infection can be nerve-wracking.

Fortunately, greater than 90 percent of healthy adults who are newly infected will clear or resolve an acute hepatitis B infection.  On the hand, greater than 90% of babies and up to 50% of children infected with hepatitis B will have lifelong, chronic infection. Sometimes people are surprised to learn they have a chronic infection. It can be confusing since there are typically few or no symptoms for decades. If a person continues to test hepatitis B positive for longer than 6 months, then it is considered a chronic infection. Repeat testing is the only way to know for sure.

Acute hepatitis B patients rarely require hospitalization, or even medication.  If you are symptomatic, (some symptoms include jaundice, dark urine, abdominal pain, fever, general malaise)  you may be anxiously conferring with your doctor, but if you are asymptomatic, you might not feel compelled to take the diagnosis seriously.  Ignoring your diagnosis can be very serious. If you have concerning symptoms like jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), a bloated abdomen or severe nausea and vomiting, please see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will be monitoring your blood work over the next few months to see if you clear the virus, or monitoring your liver if there are concerning symptoms.

Your job is to start loving your liver …today.  STOP drinking alcoholic beverages.  Refrain from smoking cigarettes.  Your liver is a non-complaining organ, but you cannot live without it.  Make your diet liver-friendly and healthy filled with a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish and lean meats. Minimize processed foods, saturated fats and sugar.  Drink plenty of water.

Talk to your doctor before taking prescription medications, herbal remedies, supplements or over-the-counter drugs.  Some can be dangerous to a liver that is battling hepatitis B.  Get plenty of rest, and exercise if you are able.

Don’t forget that you are infectious during this time, and that loved ones, sexual partners and household contacts should be tested to see if they need to be vaccinated to protect against hepatitis B.  Sometimes family members or close household contacts may find that they have a current infection or have recovered from a past HBV infection.  If anyone fears exposure ensure them that hepatitis B is not transmitted casually. They should get tested, and vaccinated if needed, and take simple precautions. Remind them that 1/3 of the world’s population will be infected with the hepatitis B virus during their lifetime.

On the flip-side… Do not let this new hepatitis B diagnosis consume you.  As the weeks and months pass, you might find that the infection is not resolving, and you might worry that you have a chronic infection.  The associated stress and anxiety can be challenging, even overwhelming.  It can contribute to physical symptoms you may be experiencing.  Find a family member, friend, or health care professional with whom you can share your concerns.

If you are told you have recovered from an acute HBV infection (you are now HBsAg negative, HBcAb positive and HBsAb positive) be sure to get copies of your lab reports to ensure there are no mistakes. Compare them with our easy to use blood tests chart.   If something looks wrong, or if you’re confused, speak up and ask your doctor. Once confirmed be sure to include hepatitis B as part of your personal health history. This is important in case you have conditions later in life that warrant monitoring.

No one wants to learn they have chronic hepatitis B but it is a manageable disease. You’ll want to see a doctor with experience treating chronic HBV so they can run additional tests. There are very effective treatments available, though not everyone with chronic HBV needs treatment. All people living with chronic HBV benefit from regular monitoring since things can change with time. Please do not panic or ignore a chronic hepatitis B diagnosis. Take a deep breath and get started today learning more about your HBV infection and the health of your liver.  Things are going to be okay!

If you are confused about your diagnosis, please feel free to contact the Hepatitis B Foundation at info@hepb.org.

Hepatitis Victoria’s “Little Hep B” Hero Book

Hepatitis Victoria in Melbourne, Australia recently released their “bright, colorful, positive and silly” children’s book, Little Hep B Hero! In addition to creating a book, Hepatitis Victoria also created an animation.

Little Hep B Hero, which is available in English, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese, gives children and their families a delightful glimpse into a young girl’s visit to her neighbor and friend, Rosa. As Rosa and the young girl prepare food and lemonade together, Rosa tells her about living with chronic hepatitis B. Rosa explains what the liver does, what hepatitis B is, how the virus is transmitted, how she maintains a healthy lifestyle with chronic hepatitis B, and shares tips on preventing hepatitis B transmission. Little Hep B Hero also provides cute and easy to understand visuals of the little girl as a superhero while Rosa explains this information.

The book does an excellent job of explaining liver functions and what the hepatitis B virus does to the liver! The analogy of using a sieve to demonstrate how the liver filters toxins in the body was creative. The book also does a great job of indirectly tackling some myths associated with hepatitis B. For example, people are often hesitant to share meals with those living with chronic hepatitis B. Little Hep B Hero lets its audience know that you cannot get hepatitis B through food preparation or sharing a meal, so Rosa cooks a meal for her neighbors.

Little Hep B Hero is an important read for future generations and their families! Getting the conversation started early about hepatitis B will address the stigma and discrimination associated with it. When children are talking about hepatitis B and are knowledgeable about it, hepatitis B isn’t a scary topic anymore. The message of hepatitis B as a family matter highlights the importance of educating and testing family members.

For more information, check out their press release, and to purchase Little Hep B Hero, visit Hepatitis Victoria’s website here.

Hepatitis B Precautions for People Living with Diabetes

 

March 27th is Diabetes Alert Day!

Diabetes is a chronic condition that is characterized by high glucose (or sugar) levels in the blood. It usually occurs when a person cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global prevalence of diabetes is on the rise! In 1980, diabetes prevalence in adults over the age of 18 was 4.7%. The number rose to 8.5% in 2014 and continues to increase. In 2015, there was an estimated 1.6 million deaths that were attributed to diabetes.

Like hepatitis B, there have been several studies that show a strong link between type II diabetes and liver cancer. Diabetes and hepatitis B can be a dangerous combination and can work together to increase someone’s risk of developing liver cancer.

Since the hepatitis B virus can be transmitted via blood or other bodily fluids, people living with diabetes are at an increased risk of contracting hepatitis B. In fact, one study found that people living with diabetes between the ages of 23-59 have an approximately two-fold increased risk of hep B infection compared to those without diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been hepatitis B outbreaks in nursing homes, assisted living, and long-term care facilities among people living with diabetes. Some risks for transmission include:

  • Sharing glucose meters between residents without cleaning and disinfecting between uses
  • Lack of proper hand hygiene and failure to wear gloves between fingerstick procedures
  • Using the same fingerstick devices for more than one resident
  • Cross-contamination of clean supplies with contaminated blood glucose monitoring equipment used by home health agencies
  • Sharing injection equipment such as an insulin pen or syringe for more than one person
  • Failure to perform proper sterilization and separating contaminated and clean podiatry equipment
  • Failure to perform proper disinfection between podiatry patients

So, what can you do if you are living with diabetes to prevent hepatitis B transmission?

  • Get tested! A simple three-part blood test will tell you if you have hepatitis B, were exposed, or are protected.
  • Get vaccinated – If you find that you are not protected or if you have not finished your hepatitis B vaccine series. The CDC and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend that adults between 19-59 years of age living with diabetes get vaccinated to protect against hepatitis B. Those 60-years-old or older should ask their doctor about the vaccine before getting it.
  • Do not share your diabetes care equipment to prevent exposure!

For more information about hepatitis B and diabetes, WHO, CDC, and/or American Diabetes Association. For a personal account of hepatitis B and diabetes, visit Martha Zimmer’s blog post. You can also visit our website for information about diabetes and liver cancer

Hepp-B Valentine’s Day: What to do on Valentine’s Day when you have hepatitis B.

Happy Valentine’s Day!! Today is dedicated to celebrating love. Though it can be exciting, anxiety can creep up on this day too. Maybe you’re thinking about confessing your feelings to your crush? Or nervous about planning the best date ever? Maybe you’re timid about the holiday in general because of your hepatitis B status?

If you have chronic hep B, you may think that starting a relationship and initiating sex can be stressful and feel overwhelming. Questions like “What if we break up because I disclosed my status?” or “Can I even start a relationship with someone if I have a chronic disease like hepatitis B?” may be swimming in your mind. Doubt and anxiety may overwhelm your thoughts, but don’t forget that you’re more than your illness. You should not focus on things you cannot change. You are worthy of love and can live out that romantic story you always wanted because you have wonderful things to offer to a future love interest.

If you’re spending time with someone on Valentine’s this year or any day, it’s important that you remember to take precautions if your date leads to an intimate night. If you are living with hep B, properly wearing a latex condom keeps you safe from becoming co-infected with another infectious disease. No one wants a co-infection. It is complicated and potentially dangerous for you and your partner’s health. If your partner does not have hep B, then avoid infection by wearing a condom. Hep B is vaccine preventable, but hepatitis C, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not. Considering the health and safety of yourself and your sexual partners is paramount. You may not know what they have, and they may not know what you have.

Also, it is important to disclose your status before sex (even if it’s safe sex with a condom). You may jeopardize your partner’s trust (and their health) before the relationship deepens. Disclosing your chronic hep B status can be scary, but talking about it reduces the stigma surrounding the infection and may even prompt your partner to get tested or vaccinated if needed. If your partner is not understanding after you have explained your HBV infection, then you know that person was not meant for you, and not deserving of your love. There are other potential partners out there that will be understanding and loving. Do not let rejection discourage you!

Disclosure should be done calmly and carefully. It is important to do some research before you do disclose your hepatitis B status. Having a thorough understanding of hepatitis B can make it easier for you to explain it to a future partner. The more you know, the less scary and more comfortable it is to dispel fear, so that you can share your status with confidence and integrity.

Whether you think of today as Valentine’s or Single Awareness Day, remember that hep B is only a small part of who you are and should not be a reason for you to give up on loving someone. Remember that you are more than your chronic hep B! It’s only a part of you and does not define your entire life. You have so much to offer to your current or future partner!

Read our previous posts about dating and hepatitis B, advice for navigating the dating world for those with hepatitis B, disclosing your status on Valentine’s, loving safely on this holiday, and tips for disclosure (or a #justB video).

Checking In on Your New Years’ Resolutions for Hepatitis B

How are your New Years’ Resolutions going?  When you were making your resolutions, did you consider hepatitis B specific New Year’s resolutions?  Here are a few ideas…

  • Make an appointment to see your liver specialist.  If you have hepatitis B, and you are not being seen regularly by a liver specialist, or a doctor knowledgeable about hepatitis B every six months, then make the commitment to do so this year. It is important to know and keep track of your HBV status and your liver health. Check out HBF’s Directory of Liver Specialists. We do not have names and contact information for all countries, so please feel free to share your favorite liver specialist with the HBV community. Make an appointment today!

 

  • Organize your hepatitis B lab dataand make a table with the date of the blood draw and the associated blood test results. You’ll want to start by requesting copies of all of your labs from your doctor. Then you can generate data tables using Excel, Word or a pencil and paper table for your charted data.  It will help you visualize your HBV over time, and you may find your doctor likes to see both the lab results and your table of results.

 

  • Generate a list of questionsfor your next appointment with your liver specialist.  People get nervous anticipating what their doctor might say about their health. It is very easy to forget those important questions, so be sure to write them down, or add them to a note app on your phone or tablet. If the option is available, have a family member or friend attend the appointment with you. That will allow you to pay closer attention while your friend or family member takes notes for you.

 

 

  • Avoid the use of alcohol. Hepatitis B and alcohol is a dangerous combination. An annual toast to the New Year? Sure. Drinking daily, weekly or even monthly? Not a good idea.  Binge drinking? Dangerous. A studyshows an increased risk for liver cancer among cirrhotic patients with HBV. Don’t let it get that far. If you have HBV and you are still drinking alcohol, seek the help you need to stop.

 

 

  • Exercise. Many people think that having a chronic illness precludes them from exercise. This is rarely the case, but if you have concerns, talk to your doctor. If you consistently exercise, keep up the good work. If you don’t, please start slowly and work your way up to a more strenuous routine, and follow general physical activity guidelines for adults. Join a gym or find an exercise buddy. Don’t compare yourself to others and work at your own pace. Set realistic workout goals. You don’t need to run a marathon. Brisk, daily walking is great, too. You may find that you experience both physical and emotional benefits, and if you exercise with friends, you’ll also benefit socially. Clinical and experimental studiesshow that physical exercise helps prevent the progression of liver cancer and improves quality of life. It also helps prevent the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD or “fatty liver”. Get moving. It’s good for your overall health and specifically your liver!

 

  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating a well-balanced diet.This is a favorite on the New Year’s Resolution list for just about everyone with or without HBV. You can’t prevent or cure HBV with a healthy diet, but it does help by preventing additional problems like the onset of fatty liver disease or diabetes. If you’ve been following trending health problems, then you are well aware that fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes are huge problems both in the U.S. and around the globe. Fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes can often be prevented with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Start by avoiding fast foods, and processed foods. Cut down on fatty foods and sweets. Sugar (fructose) is not your friend. Avoid sugary treats and drinks with sugar, including sodas and fruit juices. Reduce the amount of saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats in your diet. Saturated fats are found in deep-fried foods, red and fatty cuts of meats and dairy products. Trans and hydrogenated fats are found in processed foods. With fatty liver disease, fat accumulates in the liver and increases inflammation. If you have hepatitis B, you want to avoid any additional complications that may arise with fatty liver disease. Diabetes and HBV together can also be very complicated.  So what should you eat? Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, fish and lean meats, and whole grains. Eat brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, instead of white rice, bread and pasta.  Go back to the basics! If you have specific questions about your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor.

 

  • Don’t worry, be happy… Easy to say, but not so easy to accomplish. Anxietyand depression associated with a chronic illness are challenging problems that may be short term, or can worm their way into nearly every aspect of your life. They can even create physical symptoms that may be confusing and may result in even more worry. Please talk to your doctor if you believe your anxiety or depression is something you are unable to manage on your own. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others facing the same challenges. Personally, I found the Hepatitis B Information and Support List a wonderful source of information and support. Chronic illness can feel very lonely – especially with a disease like HBV that has a stigma associated with it. Find a trusted confident with whom you can share your story.

Check out our previous post about New Year’s resolutions to get more ideas and tips!

Improving Health-Related Quality of Life with a Chronic Condition

Image courtesy of Pexels

Do you ever feel like life is kicking you in the butt? Or do you ever feel like life is dragging you down? Though it may be hard preventing negativity from pulling you into a rut when you have a chronic condition, like hepatitis B, being more positive can help lift your spirits. When you do this, you can improve your health-related quality of life!

Though there is no set definition for health-related quality of life, the CDC defines it as an individual’s or a group’s perceived physical and mental health over time. Health related quality of life explains how a person’s physical, emotional, mental and social aspects impact their overall life. Health-related quality of life can impact your overall well-being, which the CDC defines as “a positive outcome that is meaningful for people.” Basically, improving health-related quality of life and overall well-being can help people feel that things are going well in their lives. Ultimately, this can help decrease stress and improve how well someone manages a chronic illness. This can be very useful for those of us living with the physical, emotional and social aspects of chronic hepatitis B..

Here are some tips and suggestions on how you can improve your health-related quality of life:

  • Make healthy lifestyle changes. You can develop a healthy lifestyle by starting a healthy diet, an exercise routine, or incorporating daily meditation. If you are don’t know where to start, try to find a workout buddy, join an online support group, or look through the many free apps that are available. There are also YouTube videos that can help you find workout routines and diet plans. And you don’t have to do it all at once – even small changes can make a big difference!
  • Keep a journal. This is a great opportunity to chronicle your progress towards a healthy lifestyle, and keep track of other milestones in your life. “Gratitude journals” are also very popular – you can spend time writing about one thing a day that you are thankful for – many people enjoy looking back over time to see how all of those “gratitudes” add up. People often say that this helps them to feel better and even appreciate life more. You can search online for “journal topics” or “journal exercises” to help you start a journal.
  • Find inspiration. Get some inspiration and tips from others who are going through the same thing! You can check out our #justB storytelling campaign about stories of how people cope with hepatitis B and liver cancer. We also have an empowering story from a liver cancer survivor.
  • Connect with a good support system. Spend time with people who make you feel better emotionally and physically! When you are in good company, you will feel more positive and happy too. You should also find out who is on your HBV Team!

These are just a few tips and suggestions on how you can improve your health-related quality of life. There are many articles and resources online with more tips and suggestions on how to improve your quality of and feel more positive! Some websites include CDC’s Health-Related Quality of Life program, advice on how to cope with your chronic illness from HealthCentral, and Huffington Post’s Habits to Improve your Life.

Remember that everyone goes through ups and downs in life, especially those of us living with a chronic illness. But working to make small, positive changes in your life gives you the power to live your best life!

2017 A Year in Review

Play our podcast clip here!!

2017 was a big year for us at the Hepatitis B Foundation! I’ll give you a rundown of some of our accomplishments over the year.  

We started the year off with a fresh new look! We got a new logo!  

We also launched our national storytelling campaign, “#justB: Real people sharing real stories of hepatitis B,” in partnership with StoryCenter and AAPCHO. Fifteen people have shared their stories to bring a human face to hepatitis B and help increase public awareness, decrease stigma and discrimination, and promote testing and treatment for hepatitis B. Look for new stories in the coming year! 

We have had a few additions to the HBF leadership team this year. Dr. Nat Brown, Ram Kapur, Dr. Su Wang, and Dr. Carol Brosgart all joined our board of directors. Dr. Francis Chisari and Dr. Robert Perrillo joined the scientific and medical advisory board.  

After 25 years of service, our amazing and dedicated co-founder Joan Block retired in June. Without Joan, we would not have many of the programs we have today, especially the ones that provide multi-platform, multi-lingual educational materials, newsletters, and email and telephone helplines. She also pioneered a robust advocacy presence in Washington, D.C. that has resulted in hepatitis B becoming a protected condition under the Americans With Disabilities Act to prevent discrimination, and increased federal funding for hepatitis B and liver cancer research. 

May was definitely a big month. Not only because we had numerous screening events and celebrations for Hepatitis Awareness Month, but also because we launched our Hep B Cure Campaign. The Hep B Cure Campaign is a national advocacy campaign to Double the Federal Funding within five years for hepatitis B and liver cancer research and public health. In March, we convened a virtual workshop with more than 30 of the world’s leading scientists to determine the research needed to find a cure for hepatitis B, and identify specific research projects in virology, immunology, and liver cancer, as well as strategies for expanding clinical research for therapeutic drug testing. The Hep B Cure Campaign is calling for increased federal investment to accelerate the pace of research for a cure, which will also significantly improve health and economic outcomes. Our full plan can be found in our “Roadmap for a Cure,” which can be found on our website. 

Every year, we hold the crystal ball gala, our signature fundraising event. This event gives us a chance to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to hepatitis B, and to our local Doylestown community. This year, Professor Mario Rizzetto, MD was awarded the Baruch S. Blumberg Prize for his discovery of the hepatitis delta virus. Marvin and Dee Ann Woodall were honored with the 2017 Community Commitment Award, and our own Joan Block was recognized with the distinguished Founders’ Award. 

Just last week, it was announced that Hepatitis B Foundation’s president and co-founder, Dr. Timothy Block, was named a 2017 National Academy of Inventors Fellow! This is the highest professional accolade given to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society. Congratulations Dr. Block!  

Also during this year, our programs expanded, and our reach grew!  

We updated our website in 2016 and we’re so glad to see that you have found us. We’re close to 1.5 million unique page views for the year, which is about 4,000 people visiting our website every day!  

The Hepatitis B Foundation grew its’ social media reach to over 14,500 followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’re close to 10,000 likes on Facebook! Hopefully, we’ll hit 10 K before the end of the year! Ask your friends to follow us and like the page!  

The Hepatitis Delta Connect program had a breakout year since its 2016 launch with over 11,000 website views from over 4,000 patients and providers in 92 countries! Hepatitis Delta Connect reaches 4,650 people on social media through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not bad for the first-of-its kind outreach and awareness program! 

With Hep B United, our national coalition, we distributed 6 mini-grants this year and held 12 hep B virtual training seminars reaching 2,000 live attendees and nearly 6,000 online viewers! We also had a record number of attendees at our annual Hep B United Summit during World Hepatitis Day in Washington D.C.! Together, our partners screened 4,649 people, educated 11,884 people, gave out 13,112 hepatitis B handouts, and were featured in 2 newspapers, 1 TV appearance (496,189 views), and 1 social media video. Hep B United has a social media reach that includes over 1,500 people across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

Our newest program, the #justB storytelling campaign, has been very successful so far. We now have 15 storytellers, ranging in age from 21 to 75, representing 10 U.S. states, and sharing a diversity of stories around HBV and liver cancer, transplantation, treatment, stigma and disclosure. The #justB digital stories were released on May 1, 2017, in recognition of Hepatitis Awareness Month, on HBF’s YouTube Channel and at www.hepb.org/justb. Since the launch, there have been over 60,000 views of the 18 multi-lingual videos! We want to thank our partners for helping promote these videos, including CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis Shot By Shot in California. And We are very proud that a few of the videos were selected for screening at the American Public Health Association Annual Film Festival and the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. 

Our storytellers have been very busy this year! They have conducted local hepatitis B education in their home towns, and have given interviews with print, online and radio news outlets! They have even written blogs to help spread awareness about hepatitis B! Our storytellers have also been on the move – they have made multiple visits to Washington, DC – to participate in a Congressional briefing and reception, an FDA hearing, and an in-person panel at the Hep B United Summit. 

With our local efforts in Philadelphia, the Hep B United Philadelphia program screened 100 people, distributed nearly 700 HBV handouts through 27 community events and educated approximately 650 individuals on hepatitis B. Throughout the year we hosted 123 student volunteers from local University organizations including Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) that provide BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose and vision screenings for any individual in attendance of our health fairs or screening events. Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts have a following of 1,400 people!  

Our outreach team has been very busy this year addressing your questions and concerns about hep B. Our counselors have answered over 2,200 emails, 3,650 questions on social media, and spent over 66 hours on over 400 phone calls.   

2018 will be an even bigger year! We will be releasing our “Journey to the Cure” talk show and expanding our campus in Doylestown. We will continue to work every day to find a cure for hepatitis B and improve the quality of life for all those affected. We want to thank all of our partners, supporters and friends in the U.S. and around the world.  

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat (@hepbfoundation) for all the updates in the next year!  

Celebrating the Holidays with Hepatitis B

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The holidays are a joyous time as family and friends gather for parties, dinners and get-togethers. However, they can also be a difficult, stressful time on so many levels, and especially for those who might not yet have disclosed their hepatitis B to loved ones.  You may have been recently diagnosed, or decided this is the year you’re going to let them know about your status. If you’re not there yet, that’s okay, but consider making this the year you choose to disclose.

Enjoy and celebrate the holiday cheer, but …alcoholic beverages may be an issue during this time, and it may be tempting to indulge. The most important thing to do is not pick up that drink no matter what! Hepatitis B and alcohol is a dangerous combination. Here are some tips that may help you politely refuse a drink:

  • Practice saying no
  • Prepare a reason for not drinking (i.e., “Sorry, I’m taking mediation and I can’t drink.” or “My stomach is upset and I want to enjoy all this food.”)
  • Leave the event early if you feel uncomfortable.
  • Find others who are not drinking.
  • Choose a non-alcoholic drink – sparkling water with fruit is a healthy option!
  • Volunteer to be the designated driver. You may suddenly find you have many friends!

You might want to think long and hard about disclosing your status to coworkers and acquaintances.  Only you know for sure, but family and close friends can become a new source of support for you moving forward. If the holidays inspire you to share your status, you may start with talking about your family’s health history. Even though hepatitis B is not genetic and does not run in families like some other chronic diseases, it is possible that you may have hepatitis B because you were exposed to it from an infected family member, possibly at birth or by accidental household exposure; 90% of babies and 50% of young children who were infected with hepatitis B become chronically infected. It is also important to talk about hepatitis B if there is a history of liver disease and cancer in your family. Having hepatitis B can put you at an increased risk of developing liver disease and liver cancer during your lifetime.

Here are some other considerations:

  • Choose a time when there will not be too many distractions.
  • Think about whether your loved ones will be open and accepting.
  • Bring up an interesting fact to open up the conversation.
  • Ask a relative about their health history.
  • Try to break stereotypes surrounding hepatitis B.
  • Encourage your family members to get tested, vaccinated, or treated.
  • Family members may mention that “an uncle had liver problems”, or “died of cancer”, but not know if it was related to hepatitis B.
  • Be prepared with a printed fact sheet or video from the Hepatitis B Foundation or material from the Know Hepatitis B campaign!

Disclosure can be scary and make you anxious! When you are disclosing to a loved one, their response is out of your control, but their response might surprise you. Be prepared with simple explanations about hepatitis B. A Google search may highlight frightening statistics, so be sure to reassure loved ones that HBV is controllable and manageable.

Take a look at the videos from our #justB storytellers about how HBV has impacted their lives, and share them with family members. We must all do what we can to break the silence about hepatitis B so we can get more people tested and into care, and reduce stigma and discrimination!

For more tips on how to navigate the holidays with hepatitis B, check out our previous post here.

It’s Flu Season! Did you get your shot?

Flu season is upon us! It usually ranges from the winter into early spring. It’s important that you get your flu shot, especially if you or a family member has a chronic disease such as hepatitis B.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu vaccine every year. Flu viruses change constantly from season to season and can even mutate during a single flu season. It takes 2 weeks for antibodies to develop, so get your flu shot today!

There are some people who cannot get the flu shot, including certain age groups, those with health complications, and those with allergies. However, there are still ways people can protect against getting sick. Be sure to wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs. If you feel you are sick, stay home from work or school.

While we all know antiviral drugs are effective against the hepatitis B virus, researchers have also developed antivirals that can help us fight the flu once it is confirmed someone are infected. People at high risk of serious flu complications (such as children younger than 2 years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic hepatitis B) and people who simply get very sick with the flu should talk to their doctor about getting one of three available flu antiviral drugs–oseltamivir, zanamivir, or peramivir.

According to CDC, prompt treatment with a flu antiviral can mean the difference between having a mild case versus a very serious one that can potentially land you in the hospital.

Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still help if administered later during your illness. Antivirals are effective in all age and risk groups. Studies show some doctors do not prescribe antiviral drugs to people at high risk of complications from the flu, so be assertive and ask your doctor for them if you have the flu!

It’s time to get your flu shot! It will help you, your family, and friends get protected against the flu. To find out where you can get a flu shot, click here.

For more information about hepatitis B and the flu vaccine, check out our previous posts on the flu here, here, and here.

Sharing Your Story – Your Family’s Story

Sharing Your Story – Your Family’s Story

Image courtesy of Good Free Photos

Thanksgiving is not only a day to eat turkey or remind us to remember what we are thankful for; it is also National Family History Day!!1 This holiday can be used an opportunity for families to discuss and record health problems that run through the family, as this helps us live longer and healthier. 1

There are many chronic diseases that may run through multiple generations of a family. 1 Doctors can predict whether or not you could have a chronic disease just by knowing if your parents, grandparents, and other relatives have had it. 1 That is why knowing your family health history is an important and powerful screening tool.1 You can change unhealthy behaviors, reduce your risk of diseases, and know when you should be screened when you learn about what diseases run through your family. 2

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hepatitis B is not like other chronic diseases, where if your parents have it, your genes make you more prone to it. Hepatitis B is not genetic. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and infected body fluids. This can happen through direct blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex, body piercings or tattooing, intravenous drug use, and as a result of unsafe medical or dental procedures. It can also be transmitted from an hepatitis B positive mother to her baby at birth.

Even though hepatitis B is not genetic, you should still include it in your family health history discussion! The most common method of hepatitis B transmission worldwide is from mother-to-child due to the blood exchange that happens during child birth. Pregnant women who are infected with hepatitis B can transmit the virus to their newborns during delivery. 90% of babies exposed to hepatitis B at birth will become chronically infected with hepatitis B, which increases their risk of serious liver disease later in life. Knowing your family’s hepatitis B history can help you figure out if you and other loved ones should get screened for or vaccinated to protect against hepatitis B.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Knowing if you have a family history of liver cancer can also be important, since hepatitis B is one of the leading causes of liver cancer. If your family has a history of hepatitis B related liver cancer, then you may have a greater risk of developing liver damage or liver cancer if you have hepatitis B. Be sure to discuss a family history of liver cancer with your liver specialist.

If you need some advice on how to start the conversation about your family health history, read more here. You can also use the US Department of Health & Human Services’s My Family Health Portrait Web tool to help start this dialogue and learn how to share family history information at a future doctor visit.

You don’t need to wait until this Thanksgiving to talk about your family health history. You can talk to your family about your family health history and hepatitis B status RIGHT NOW!

References:

  1. https://www.hhs.gov/programs/prevention-and-wellness/family-health-history/about-family-health-history/index.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist_basics.htm