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Hepatitis B virus is the primary cause of liver disease in Asians. In the United States, chronic hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer, and is the second-leading cause for liver transplantation. While there is no cure for hepatitis B, there is a vaccine that prevents infection. Unfortunately, many susceptible people are not receiving vaccination to prevent this serious disease.
The Silent Killer -- A significant portion of patients who are chronically infected with hepatitis B are unaware of their illness which will progress and cause major health problems such as liver failure and liver cancer.
Symptoms -- Many patients with chronic hepatitis B do not have symptoms and feel healthy. When symptoms do appear, it is often in the late stage of liver disease when treatment may be less effective.
Early diagnosis -- If untreated, it is estimated that hepatitis B will lead to cirrhoses or liver cancer in as many as 1 in 4 individuals.
Screening for hepatitis B -- Screening is done by performing a simple and inexpensive blood test, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBgAg).
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B (HBV) is a blood-borne microorganism transmitted by exposure to the hepatitis B virus through infectious body fluids or blood.
Hepatitis B is one of the most frequently reported, vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. It is estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 deaths will occur each year from a chronic HBV infection, and an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million people have chronic hepatitis B.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B has a wide range of symptoms. It may be mild, without symptoms, or it may cause chronic hepatitis. In some cases, hepatitis B can lead to full-blown liver failure and death. The following are the most common symptoms of hepatitis B. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Loss of appetite
Fatigue (feeling very tired)
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Clay colored or light colored stools
Abdominal (belly) pain
Occasionally, skin rashes, arthralgias (joint pain), and arthritis occur
The symptoms of hepatitis B may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Most children, 4 years or younger, and newly infected immunosuppressed adults are asymptomatic, whereas 30 to 50 percent of people, 5 years and older, have initial signs and symptoms. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.