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.
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.
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 peopleat 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.
World AIDS Day was last Friday, December 1st. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness about HIV and AIDS. However, it is also a great opportunity to discuss the possibility of coinfection with hepatitis B virus, HBV.
Dr. John Ward, MD, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis, CDC talks about hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV epidemics in the United States.
Hepatitis B (HBV) and HIV/AIDs have similar modes of transmission. They can be transmitted through direct contact with blood, or sexual transmission (both heterosexual and MSM). Unfortunately, people who are high risk for HIV are also at risk for HBV, though hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. Fortunately hepatitis B is a vaccine preventable disease and the vaccine is recommended for individuals living with chronic HIV.
Nearly one third of people who are infected with HIV are also infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C (HCV).2 To break down the numbers further, about 10% of people with HIV also have hepatitis B, and about 25% of people with HIV also have hepatitis C.2 Liver complications due to HBV and HCV infections have become the most common non-AIDS-related cause of death for people who are HIV-positive.3
Who is at risk of HIV and HBV co-infection? Because both infections have similar transmission routes, injection drug use and unprotected sex (sex without condoms) are risk factors for both infections.4 However, there are additional risk factors for HIV and for HBV that put people at risk4
It is important that people who are at risk of both diseases are tested! HIV-positive people who are exposed to HBV are more likely to develop a chronic HBV infection and other liver associated complications, such as liver-related morbidity and mortality if they are infected with HBV.1
If a person is co-infected with both HBV and HIV, management of both diseases can be complicated, so a visit to the appropriate specialists is vital.3 Some anti-retrovirals, which are usually prescribed to treat HIV, can eventually lead to antiviral resistance or liver-associated problems.3 One or both infections will require treatment and must be carefully managed. Treatment differs from person to person .4
Weibaum, C.M., Williams, I., Mast, E.E., Wang, S.A., Finelli, L., Wasley, A., Neitzel, S.M, & Ward, J.W. (2008). Recommendations forMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 57(RR08), 1-20. Retrieved from: Identification and Public Health Management of Persons with Chronic Hepatitis B Infection. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5708a1.htm
The documentary film, produced by The Vaccine Makers Project, follows the unknown story of a man who “had more of an impact on [people’s] lives compared to Einstein.” The film tells the story of a courageous and gutsy scientist, Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman, and the elimination of diseases of children. With his unwavering determination, Dr. Hilleman invented the first-ever vaccine against a human cancer (the hepatitis B vaccine), developed the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) combination vaccine, and prevented pandemic flu. During World War II he developed an urgently needed vaccine for Japanese B encephalitis in 30 days.
He is responsible for more than half of the vaccines children receive today and is credited with saving more than eight million lives every year. Now through exclusive interviews with Dr. Hilleman and his peers, rare archival footage, and 3-D animation, this new documentary puts a human face to vaccine science, revealing the character that drove this bold, complex, and heroic man.
When parents began choosing not to vaccinate their children in the 1990s, a cruel irony became clear; Hilleman’s unprecedented successes have allowed us to forget just how devastating childhood diseases can be. The documentary reminds us by allowing us to see these diseases as part of the film.
Community members from Philadelphia and Bucks County came for the film screening as they enjoyed fun movie snacks. They also enjoyed a panel discussion moderated by Timothy Block, PhD, with the documentary director and esteemed representatives from scientific community. Expert panelists included Donald Rayne Mitchell, Paul Offit, MD, David Oshinsky, PhD, and Walter Tsou, MD, MPH. They shared their thoughts on the documentary, Dr. Hilleman’s life, and the future of vaccines. Mitchell and Dr. Offit expressed that the documentary film was created to “inspire a kid or to get into [scientific] work someday,” and to “put a human face on vaccines.”
For more information about the film, click here. If you are interested in learning more about the hepatitis B vaccine, click here.
Be on the look out for a special “preview” vlog of the film screening at the end of December 2017.