Most people know about AIDS, however are ignorant about Hepatitis B- a viral disease whose rate of infection is many times higher than that of HIV these days.
Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. The liver becomes inflamed as a result of infection, a disorder in the immune system caused by alcoholism, certain medication, toxins or poisons.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is commonly spread through body fluid contact. Eventually the infection develops to into an acute or chronic condition.
The acute condition occurs shortly after exposure to the virus however chronic HBV also called fulminant hepatitis lasts longer than 6 months and may never go away completely.
“People with chronic HBV infection are called chronic carriers. About two-thirds of these people do not themselves get sick or die of the virus, but they can transmit it to other people.” said Doctor Richard Butare.
Statistics show that about 90-95 percent of people who are infected by HBV are able to fight off the virus and never become chronic sufferers while only about 5-10 percent of adults infected with HBV go on to develop chronic infection.
In the body, the liver is an essential organ that the body cannot do without. It’s most important functions are; filtering drugs and toxins out of the blood, storing energy for later use, helping with the absorption of certain nutrients from food and producing substances that fight infections and controlling bleeding.
The liver has an incredible ability to heal itself, but it can only heal itself if nothing is damaging it.
Liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis B, if not stopped, continues until the liver becomes hardened and scar-like. This is called ‘cirrhosis’ a condition traditionally associated with alcoholism. When this happens, the liver failure occurs and its only treatment is a liver transplant.
Chronic hepatitis B can also lead to a type of liver cancer known as ‘hepatocellular carcinoma’ which is fatal. About 15-25 percent of people with chronic hepatitis B die of liver disease.