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Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B is characterized as inflammation or swelling of the liver due to infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). HBV is a DNA virus that accumulates in liver cells. The presence of HBV causes an inflammatory immune response that can severely harm liver cells as a result of the body trying to fight of the infection. This virus is most abundantly found in the blood and is also found in low concentrations in bodily fluids.

Hepatitis B virus is transmitted by coming into direct contact with infected blood, semen, vaginal secretions and other bodily fluids. Some examples of direct contact would be blood transfusions, sexual contact, needle sharing, and unsanitary tattoo equipment. Also some other prime risk factors are those who have had a history of sexually transmitted diseases, unprotected sex with multiple partners, or men who have sex with men. The Hepatitis B virus can also be transmitted from mother to child during birth.

Hepatitis B can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis B occurs within the first few months of infection. Only a few people exhibit symptoms to Acute Hepatitis B. These symptoms can include fatigue, loss of appetite, jaundice, or pain in the upper right abdomen. This is rarely fatal. Those with Chronic Hepatitis B may also either exhibit no symptoms for years or have mild ones depending on the severity of liver damage. They can range from flu-like symptoms to severe symptoms due to liver disease such as cirrhosis or liver failure.

Hepatitis B can be prevented and treated. Forms of prevention can be vaccination with HBV, protected sex, and by not sharing needles. Acute Hepatitis B does not require much treatment other than careful monitoring of the liver and plenty of bed rest and fluids. It normally goes away and the liver returns back to normal within four to six months. Chronic Hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral medications and in severe cases with liver transplantations.

Currently in the U.S. the amount of does infected with Hepatitis B is gradually decreasing. By the end of the twelfth week in 2010 there were 141 cases per 100,000,000 people. Now in 2011 there were only 86 cases, almost a 50% decrease since 2010. In New York City alone there has been a 15% decrease from 2010 to 2011. The amount affected with Hepatitis B will most likely continue to drop due to the more easily assessable Hepatitis B vaccination, the increased knowledge of how the virus works and is spread, and also the advancement of medicine.



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