What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that can permanently damage your liver. It is one of the leading causes of liver cancer. About half of the people who are infected with Hepatitis B do not have any symptoms – this means they don’t know they’re infected, but they can still pass the disease on to other people. If symptoms occur they include: loss of appetite, weakness, tiredness, headache, vomiting, feeling sick to one’s stomach, dark urine, pale stools, fever, abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Hepatitis B infection can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, and liver cancer. Most people recover from the infection and develop lifelong immunity; however, a small number of people who get Hepatitis B will carry the virus for the rest of their lives. Some may need a liver transplant. Others will eventually die from the disease.
Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood and/or body fluids of an infected person by:
- Having unprotected sex.
- Sharing needles or other equipment for injection drug use.
- Transmission from mother to her baby during childbirth.
- Sharing needles, ink, or other equipment used for body/ear piercing or tattoos.
- Needlestick injuries in health care workers.
- Sharing medical equipment like blood glucose machines and household items like toothbrushes, nail clippers, or razors (when blood has been in contact with it).
- Rarely, through a human bite from an infected person.
How can Hepatitis B be prevented?
Hepatitis B can be prevented through the Hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine is almost 100% effective in preventing infection. Before the vaccine, there were about 20 000 new cases of Hepatitis B in Canada every year. Today, there are less than 1000 new infections each year in Canada.
Are there any side effects from the Hepatitis B vaccine?
Most people have no serious side effects from the Hepatitis B vaccine. Many people have short-term mild side-effects like those that happen with other needles: redness, tenderness and swelling where the needle was given.
Other side effects may include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, headache, and loss of appetite.
Allergic reactions like hives, wheezing, or swelling of the face and mouth are extremely rare. If these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately.
Other Website Links:
Toronto Public Health: Hep B Vaccine for Grade 7 Students