Hepatitis B (HBV): What is it? And how is it preventable?

Hepatitis is the condition in which the liver cells (Hepatocytes) become inflamed. It is a condition presented in various diseases. Hepatitis is of five types, A, B, C, D & E.

Hepatitis B, is a serious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). It can be acute (manifesting severe symptoms and lasts for a few weeks or chronic (presenting no symptoms, but lasts for more than 6 months with severe implications in the long term).


  • Dark Urine
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Body Ache
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Mild fever
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cirrhosis over a period of time in chronic cases
  • Skin rash or lesions.


  • Exposure to; 
  • Infected blood, by coming in contact with a carrier
  • Infected body fluids
  • By having unprotected sexual intercourse
  • By coming in contact with infected needles
  • Reuse of infected needles
  • Blood transfusion
  • Use of IV street drugs
  • In pregnant women infected with the virus, transmission to the offspring can occur
  •  Travel to countries with a high infection rate.


  • Chronic hepatitis can lead to liver cirrhosis & therefore cancer.
  • Can in severe acute cases lead to a condition called acute liver failure
  • HBV has been linked to the development of high amount of protein loss in the urine, fluid retention and kidney failure.
  • Formation of vasculitis &  necrosis in arteries.
  • Inflammation of the kidneys (nephrons)


  1. Blood tests – conducted to detect the presence of HBV antigen(proteins) in the blood or the corresponding antibodies (IgM & IgG) produced by the host in its presence.
  2. Liver ultrasound is conducted to assess the damage caused to the liver.
  3. Liver Biopsy – A part of the liver tissue is taken to assess for scarring.
  4. Knowing history of a suspected patient, if there is any history of drug use, sexual history or transfusion.


  • Although medication cannot completely clear the infection, they can certainly reduce the viral replication.
  • Antiviral drugs like lamivudine, tenofovir & entecavir.
  • Interferon therapy, like interferon alpha-2a injections, taken thrice a week.
  • In severe and progressing disease, liver transplant is the only available option.


  • Vaccine for HBV exists & is regularly given by health bodies.
  • HBV vaccine is the most effective method for preventing infection of Hepatitis B.
  • Above all, in pregnant women, tenofovir when given along with HBV vaccine in the second or third trimester reduces the risk of transmission from mother to child by 77%.
  • Practice safe sex by using protection.
  • Testing of blood before transfusion.
  • IV recreational drugs should not be used.
  • Getting tattoo or piercing, from responsible artists who used sterilized needles.
  • Checking yourself for sexual infections if you are regularly involved in sexual intercourse.