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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.

If Hepatitis B Is Sexually Transmitted, How Come My Partner Isn’t Infected?

Image courtesy of Canva

I thought hepatitis B was sexually transmitted? I just tested positive, but my partner tested negative, we’ve been together for years, what gives?

This question is a common one. Hepatitis B is indeed easily transmitted sexually, so why do some people — who were not vaccinated — never get hepatitis B from their sexual partners?

It comes down to variables, such as the type of sexual activity you engage in, the viral load (HBV DNA) of the infected partner, and who is on the receiving end of infectious body fluids, especially blood that contains the most virus, and semen.

Having one partner infected, and other not, can add more stress to an already traumatic hepatitis B diagnosis. “It was very confusing and made me question how was it possible I was the only one infected,” said a woman who tested positive while her husband tested negative.  “I thought it was possibly a mistake, maybe I was a biological anomaly, which of course I was not.”

Let’s look at the factors that affect who gets infected and who doesn’t when two people have sex.

Viral load: Semen, vaginal fluids and blood all contain the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and the higher the viral load, the more infectious one’s blood and body fluids are. However, having an undetectable viral load doesn’t mean you won’t infect someone during unsafe sex. Even if a man has an undetectable viral load, studies show his semen still contains some HBV and can spread infection, though the risk is lower.

So, the rule here is if a man tests positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), he must consider himself infectious.

The role of gender: In heterosexual relationships, uninfected women are at higher risk of getting infected by a male partner infected with hepatitis B, than the reverse. Women are on the receiving end of semen, which greatly increases their risk of becoming infected unless a condom is used.

When a woman is infected with hepatitis B, an uninfected man is at risk through direct contact with her vaginal secretions, but that contact is lower-risk than a woman’s direct exposure to infectious semen during intercourse.

However, an infected woman who is menstruating is more likely to spread hepatitis B because blood can contain higher levels of HBV than vaginal secretions. That is why gloves and dental dams are recommended to provide a barrier against exposure.

The type of sexual activity: Certain sexual activities are far more efficient at spreading hepatitis B than others. Oral sex appears to have a lower rate of hepatitis B transmission than vaginal sex. Anal sex carries a very high risk of transmission because of tears in the skin that can occur during penetration, which improves transmission of HBV.

Fingering carries a lesser risk, unless the infected woman is menstruating or a person has bruises or cuts on their hands that allow entry of hepatitis B virus in semen or vaginal fluids, then gloves are recommended.

The “uninfected” partner could already have been infected and cleared hepatitis B: When a person is first diagnosed with hepatitis B, doctors often test his or her partner for only the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), which indicates a current hepatitis B infection. If they are negative for HBsAg, they are immediately vaccinated.

If the partner isn’t also tested for the hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs or HBsAb), then no one knows if the individual was already protected, either due to recovery from a past hepatitis B infection, or because they had already been vaccinated.

Hepatitis B is not called the “silent” infection for nothing — many people who get hepatitis B never have any symptoms and never realize they were infected. As a result, a wife, husband, partner or lover who tested negative for HBsAg, may actually have been infected in the past and cleared the infection and now has protective hepatitis B surface antibodies to forever safeguard them from infection. If they’re immediately vaccinated and retested after the three-dose vaccination, they will test positive for surface antibodies, without ever knowing that their antibodies resulted from a past infection, not immunization.

Bottom line, if one of you have been diagnosed and the other is not infected, it is unusual but not uncommon. Get tested and immediately vaccinated if the uninfected partner tests negative for the hepatitis B surface antibody.

Take a quiz to find out how much you know about hepatitis B transmission: click here.

Find an earlier version of this post here

Journey to the Cure: What do I do if I’m pregnant and have hep B? ft. Maureen Kamischke

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure.” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the third episode (part 1), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Maureen Kamischke, Hepatitis B Foundation Social Media Manager, to discuss what expectant mothers can do when they have hepatitis B.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org.

The Hepatitis B Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure and improving the lives of those affected by hepatitis B worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. Visit us at www.hepb.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hepbfoundation, on Twitter at @hepbfoundation, and our Blog at www.hepb.org/blog

Disclaimer: The information provided in this video is not intended to serve as medical advice or endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Edited:
Kristine Alarcon, MPH

Special thanks:
Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

Join a Twitter Chat: Organizations Share Highlights From Hepatitis Awareness Month

Join Hepatitis B Foundation, NASTAD and CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis for a Twitter #HepChat at 2 p.m. (EST) Thursday, June 14. The chat will highlight Hepatitis Awareness Month outreach events and allow hepatitis B and C partner organizations to share their successes, challenges and lessons learned from their efforts. HBF’s Kristine Alarcon and Jason Crum, this month’s featured storyteller will also be LIVE on Facebook, so if you’re not on twitter join us at hepbfoundation.

Continue reading "Join a Twitter Chat: Organizations Share Highlights From Hepatitis Awareness Month"

May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and Saturday, May 19this National Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States. This day is an opportunity to increase awareness and testing for both hepatitis B and C. It is also a reminder for health care providers and the public of the importance of testing for viral hepatitis.

Why is hepatitis B testing necessary? Hepatitis B is largely asymptomatic, which means that symptoms don’t always occur or are not obvious. Some people will not know that they have hepatitis B until it is too late, or they may learn of their infection from a blood donation screening or lab work.  There are groups of people who have a greater risk of hepatitis B compared to others, so it doesn’t hurt to be sure. here are some places around the world that have an extremely high hepatitis B prevalence (where many people are infected). It is important that people who are at high risk for a hepatitis B infection see a doctor to get tested, to find out if they have a hepatitis B infection. People living with chronic hepatitis B should be monitored regularly and appropriately screened for liver cancer. So, if you find you do have hepatitis B, talk to your doctor about what to do next.

Remember, hepatitis B does not discriminate. Don’t wait for symptoms. B sure. B tested. If you do not have hepatitis B, then give yourself lifelong protection with the hepatitis B vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective. Children or adults can get the 3-shot vaccine series, and there isa newly approved two-dose adult vaccine to protect us against hepatitis B! However, the vaccine doesn’t work if you are already infected.

Don’t forget to check out these free, confidential hepatitis screenings this weekend! Check out Hep B United’s resource to find local events in your area. You can also visit the CDC’s website for more ideas on how to increase awareness on National Hepatitis Testing Day, and every day!

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.

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Hepatitis Awareness Month is dedicated to increasing awareness of hepatitis in the United States and to encourage high risk populations to get tested. If you’re not sure how you can get involved in the hepatitis B community this month, here are some ways you can!

  • Share and spread hepatitis B knowledge. CDC’s Know Hepatitis B Campaign is a great resource to learn more about hepatitis B and to promote testing in your area! They also have great posters, handouts, and videos available in different languages including Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean, French, and more! You can also look for some of the Hepatitis B Foundation’s fact sheets and #justB storytelling campaign videos.
  • Join or organize a screening event. May 19th is National Hepatitis Testing Day! Organizations around the country will provide viral hepatitis screenings – both hep B and C! Be sure to look for some Hep B United partners’ websites for screenings in your local area, especially if you’re interested in volunteering.
  • Organize or join a flash mob to increase awareness! With our local hepatitis B campaign in Philadelphia, Hep B United Philadelphia, we held a “B A Hero Flash Mob” in the past. It is a great way to open the discussion about hepatitis B in an engaging and fun way!
  • Become an HBV advocate! You can join our Hep B United Action Center to get all the updates on our advocacy efforts. You can also share your hepatitis B knowledge on social media too!
  • Check out and share Hepatitis Victoria’s Little Hep B Hero book and animation. Hepatitis Victoria created an engaging book to explain hepatitis B to six to twelve-year-old children. Their book is available to order and in English, Simplified Chinese, and Vietnamese.
  • Join the #HepAware Thunderclap. You can easily share and show your support for CDC Hepatitis’s efforts by joining their Thunderclap by May 19th, Hepatitis Testing Day. You can use Facebook, a Facebook page you manage, Twitter, and Tumblr.
  • Join our international #HepBeLIeVER Social Media Contest. Not only will you be spreading hepatitis B awareness, but you can also get a chance to WIN a $50 AMAZON GIFTCARD and other Hepatitis B Foundation swag. All you have to do is take a picture loving your liver and upload it to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with #HepBeLIeVER. More information here.

There are endless possibilities to celebrate this month! If you need even more ideas, CDC has a plethora of resources available dedicated to Viral Hepatitis Awareness month. You can also check out our Hepatitis Awareness Month webinar from Hep B United, NASTAD, and CDC or Hep B United and NOHep’s webinar: The NOHep Fight for Elimination!

Journey to the Cure: What Programs are Available for People Living with Hepatitis B?

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure.” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the second episode (part 2), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Vice President of Public Health Programs of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about public health research at the Hepatitis B Foundation.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this audio post is not intended to serve as medical advice of endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Edited by:
Kristine Alarcon, MPH and Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

Script:

Welcome to Journey to the Cure! Every month, we’ll sit down with scientists from the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute to talk to you about hepatitis B and efforts to find a cure for hepatitis B. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re here to walk you through our journey.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
In our last episode, Dr. Block was talking about how the Hep B Foundation is dedicated to public health research. Can you tell us more about that?

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
One of our major goals is to get everyone in the United States – or in the world really – but primarily in the US, everyone who has hepatitis B should be aware of their diagnosis and should be able to access to care. In order to do that, we have to do research. We have to figure out what are the best ways to get people tested and into care. In order to do that, we have to first figure out why people aren’t getting tested now, what barriers are people facing, what challenges are people facing to get tested, and how can we help them overcome those challenges. Every time we do a public health program, we are also doing research, so we are collecting a lot of data. And then, we use the data to develop new programs, and we share it with others as well. We also collect information and data on prevalence, so looking at where some of the high risk and highly impacted communities are in the U.S. We will do testing ourselves. We’ll go into communities in Philadelphia, and we’ll do hepatitis B testing. Through that, we know which communities need more care.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
What types of public health programs are you carrying out right now?

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
We have a number of different programs right now. One is our Hep B United Philadelphia program, where we like to train the trainers. In Philadelphia, we’re training people who do health education; we’re training community leaders; and we’re helping them to learn about hep B, so that that they can go into high risk communities and teach other people about hep B. We’re also screening a lot of people. This year, we screened a little over 200 people for hepatitis B. When we find people to be infected, we link them into care. We’re also working on a new project, looking at the challenges that African immigrants face in the US in terms of hepatitis B testing. We’re trying to figure out what are the best ways to overcome those challenges and what are the best ways to get people tested and into care. And then, we have our #justB program, which is our national patient storytelling program, where people who have hep B or with family members who have hep B tell their stories and make videos, and they share how hep B has impacted their lives.

Kristine Alarcon, MPH:
Thank you so much for joining us in this episode!

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH:
Thank you!

Journey to the Cure: How Do I Know if I Have Hepatitis B? ft. Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH

Welcome to “Journey to the Cure” This is a web series that chronicles the progress at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Baruch S. Blumberg Institute towards finding the cure for hepatitis B.

In the second episode (part 1), Kristine Alarcon, MPH sits down with Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Vice President of Public Health of the Hepatitis B Foundation, to talk about hepatitis B symptoms and testing.

For any questions about hepatitis B, please email info@hepb.org

The Hepatitis B Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure and improving the lives of those affected by hepatitis B worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. Visit us at www.hepb.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hepbfoundation, on Twitter at @hepbfoundation, and our Blog at www.hepb.org/blog

Disclaimer: The information provided in this video is not intended to serve as medical advice or endorsement of any product. The Hepatitis B Foundation strongly recommends each person discuss this information and their questions with a qualified health care provider.

Edited by:
Samantha Young

Music:
Modern – iMovie Library Collection

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