About Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a disease caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Infection with HBV can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, and liver cancer. 80% of liver cancer worldwide is caused by HBV infection.
How HBV is Transmitted
Hepatitis B is silently transmitted and has a silent progression. Many people with chronic HBV exhibit no symptoms and feel perfectly healthy. They may even exhibit normal blood test for liver function.
HBV is transmitted through infected blood in the following ways:
From a mother to a child at the time of birth
(most common for APIs)
Contact with infected blood
Among Asian & Pacific Islander community, transmission of HBV frequently occurs during the birth process when the virus is passed on to the baby from a mother who is often unaware that she is infected.
Because so many people with hepatitis B feel fine, even with early stages of liver cancer, the disease can progress undetected. If symptoms do appear they often are exhibited at the end stages of disease when treatment options are limited or ineffective.
Hepatitis B is a silent killer. It is asymptomatic so people who are infected often feel perfectly healthy. Only 30% of those with acute infections develop symptoms. Most APIs are infected at birth or early childhood, when symptoms may never develop. When symptoms of hepatitis B infection do develop, they include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. For those who are infected as newborns, there is a 90% chance of becoming a chronic carrier. For those infected during childhood, there is a 30%-50% chance.
Most Asians are exposed to the disease either during the perinatal period or during childhood. There is a 8-15% prevalence rate of the number of chronic carriers within the Asian community. Perinatal transmission is the most common mode of infection. As a result, prevention of perinatal transmission is of utmost importance in the Asian community. Since HBV is very efficiently transmitted by unprotected sex, all API adults who are sexually active should be vaccinated to prevent infection.