I am a 19 year old student. I keep hearing of Hepatitis as a sexual transmitted disease. What is that and when did this disease come about? Julian.
Hepatitis is a viral infection, causing damage to the liver. This manifests as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, yellow discoloration of eyes and enlargement of liver. Untreated or if the viral load increases in the body, it can cause cirrhosis of the liver which presents as accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, feet, generalised bloating. It is an irreversible condition and can lead to liver cancer. It can also affect joints, kidneys and other parts of body.
After entry, the Hepatitis B virus exists in body fluids of a person, including semen and vaginal fluids. It is transmitted through blood transfusions using contaminated blood, use of contaminated tools as in hair care and beauty saloons, pricks by contaminated syringe and needles and sexual intercourse.
Since sex is an act done many times, the risk of acquiring and transmitting the infection is increased manifold. In case of a pregnant woman with Hepatitis B, the infection can be transmitted to the baby through placenta or through vaginal fluids during delivery.
There may be no symptoms in early stages. Sometimes the infection may be contained by the body’s immunity, thus preventing sickness to develop. But in both these situations, one is capable of transmitting infection to a sexual partner.
Hepatitis B virus was discovered more than a century ago, but effective vaccination was developed around 1982.
The vaccine is given to children as part of routine immunisation programme. It is also recommended for people in close contact with a case of Hepatitis B. Best way to avoid the disease is to have safe sex, avoid multiple partners. In saloons, make sure that tools used are cleaned properly with disinfectant.