What is HBV?
HBV stands for Hepatitis B Virus. As the name implies, this particular virus causes Hepatitis B, which is a serious liver disease.
Infection with HBV can have three different results. Acute infections refer to those who completely recover from the disease and have good immunity from being re-infected. Acute types of hepatitis B are more common in adults. Symptoms include tiredness, loss of appetite, muscle and joint pains, stomach pains and/or diarrhea, nausea, and jaundice. Fulminant hepatitis is another outcome which has greater mortality rate secondary to liver failure. Chronic infections meanwhile involve the persistence of HBV in the body, making the infected person a virus “carrier”. Chronic types often lead to liver scarring or cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. Children and infants are more vulnerable to acquire the chronic type of hepatitis. And many are asymptomatic, so those infected are unaware that they are spreading HBV to other people.
HBV is usually transmitted from a mother to her baby, through sexual intercourse, or blood transfusions. But a person may also be infected if he/she has contact with body fluids from skin cuts and sores. Infected body fluids may also be present in personally hygiene items like razor blades or toothbrushes. The virus can also be spread when drug users share needles and when one engages in unprotected sex. Those who are already infected with HIV may also be carries of the hepatitis B virus. One must also be extra careful when traveling to countries where hepatitis B is rampant.
In the US alone, there are about 1.25 million people infected with HBV. Around 4000 or 5000 of those infected with HBV die yearly because of liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. Though up to 95% of HBV infections recover from the dreaded disease, a significant 5-10% will progress into chronic types, which almost always leads to liver damage or failure.