Hepatitis B: infection, symptoms, treatment, protectionIn old age, the body's defenses weaken – especially when traveling. The consequence is a higher susceptibility to disease. One of the most feared is hepatitis B – a viral infection that leads to inflammation of the liver. What happens when you have hepatitis B, how to recognize hepatitis B and how to avoid infection, we show you here. In addition: These therapies. There are prevention options.
Hepatitis B: infection and regions
Hepatitis is colloquially known as jaundice. The name comes from a slight yellow discoloration of the skin in those with the disease, which is caused by inflammation of the liver.
The disease occurs in five different forms: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E. Hepatitis B is particularly noteworthy. Although type A is more widespread, virus type B is nevertheless considerably more dangerous.
Hepatitis B viruses are transmitted through body fluids. This includes sexual contact, blood, breast milk, saliva and even tears. For example, even infection via a shared toothbrush is possible.
The pathogen is widespread mainly in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. Also in Australia and North America. In Germany, the risk of infection with hepatitis B is comparatively low. An average of 3 people contract the disease every year.000 to 4.000 people in this country contract the virus – most of them are travelers returning home.
Hepatitis B: profile of the different types
In order to accurately assess the risk of hepatitis B, it is important to take a close look at the different hepatitis virus types. Since hepatitis D and E hardly play a role medically, it is worth looking primarily at the first three virus types:
The viruses of the hepatitis A genus are considered to be the comparatively most harmless of the viruses. Even though they are the most common, because the route of infection is very simple. Especially when traveling, you should be careful, because the transmission happens via the so-called contact and smear infection. This means that consumption of contaminated food or unhygienic conditions can quickly lead to infection.
Therefore, you should remember to maintain adequate hygiene while on the road. This means: do not drink tap water, avoid ice cubes, wash food thoroughly and boil or fry it thoroughly.
About 14 days to a month after infection, the first symptoms appear, such as fatigue, nausea, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain. A yellowing of the skin usually accompanies the complaints. This acute phase usually lasts several days to two weeks, in some cases even up to four weeks.
Afterwards, the disease subsides on its own. Only the symptoms are treated – if at all – in order to make them more bearable. Sufficient bed rest promotes the healing process.
As mentioned, the infection with hepatitis B occurs through body fluids. One to four months after infection, the first symptoms of the disease appear, which are similar to those of an infection with hepatitis A. The course and healing is also similar.
In the case of hepatitis B, there is a slight risk that the disease will become chronic and difficult to control. Although this only happens in about ten percent of cases, chronic liver inflammation can lead to permanent liver failure, liver cancer or liver cirrhosis.
As with hepatitis A, hepatitis B has a lifelong immunity after a single infection.
In most cases, hepatitis C viruses are transmitted via the bloodstream. First and foremost, drug users who share injecting equipment are at risk. And even a transmission through insufficient hygiene in piercing or tattoo studios has already occurred.
The course of the disease is usually severe and far-reaching. The danger of the disease itself does not play a role in the everyday life of most elderly people, therefore it should be rather briefly described here.
All three types of virus have in common that they attack the chemical laboratory of our body – the liver. It is responsible for detoxification. If it is inflamed and can no longer work properly, toxins contaminate our bloodstream. As a result, the entire organism is affected.
The good news is: the liver, more than any other organ, is able to regenerate itself. This unfortunately takes some time.
Hepatitis B: symptoms
Each patient reacts differently to the infection. There are even infected persons who show no symptoms at all or only very mild symptoms. The famous yellowing of the skin only occurs in a good third of those with the disease.
Therefore, you should not ignore the following alarm signs:
Hepatitis B: Life expectancy and course of the disease
How bad hepatitis B is depends on the individual case. Hepatitis B does not have a uniform course of the disease with the same symptoms.
The virus itself is not fatal. However, there are always cases in which the liver reacts with secondary diseases. It can happen that the course of the disease begins asymptomatically and harmlessly, but ends with a severe liver inflammation.
Therefore, it is difficult to give a clear prognosis. Although the life expectancy of hepatitis B is generally very high, it is not uncommon for patients to die from the disease. This usually occurs when the general condition of the organism and especially the liver is already under attack. For this reason, you should avoid foods that are harmful to the liver, such as fats. Avoid alcohol in the case of hepatitis B.
Incubation period Hepatitis B
As already mentioned, the incubation period is quite variable. In some cases it takes only a few weeks, in others half a year, before hepatitis B breaks out.
One thing is certain: If you've contracted hepatitis B while traveling, you're sure to be back home when the disease breaks out. This time lag often makes it so difficult to detect hepatitis B in time without medical help. A diagnosis can only be made by blood sampling and analysis.
Because of this and because affected patients are contagious for weeks or even months, hepatitis B is one of the notifiable diseases. This means that the attending physician must always report the name of the affected patient to the relevant health authority. Even if there is only a suspicion of infection with hepatitis B, this is mandatory.
Is hepatitis B curable?
If it is an acute infection with hepatitis B, in most cases no therapy is necessary. The disease heals on its own.
Although the symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, they can be easily alleviated and controlled with the appropriate medication. For example, the administration of paracetamol or charcoal tablets is sufficient in many cases to achieve a subjectively better general condition.
In addition, bed rest and sparing are recommended. A high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet and avoidance of alcohol and liver-damaging drugs also greatly support the healing process.
If hepatitis B does become chronic, antiviral drugs are usually prescribed by the doctor. The medication is administered in both tablet and syringe form. The aim of this therapy is to reduce the amount of viruses in the blood as much as possible so that the body can better cope with the infection. This is why it is referred to as supportive therapy. Hepatitis B cannot be cured with medication.
Hepatitis B vaccination
Since infection occurs through bodily fluids, certain risk groups can be filtered out. You should take special care of a prophylaxis. Particularly affected are:
– Dialysis patients – Doctors and nursing staff – Drug addicts – Patients who receive blood units abroad
Prevention is possible. First, you should avoid sources of infection if possible. On the other hand, there is a medical possibility for prevention. In this context, vaccination is highly recommended. The vaccine is injected directly into the muscle – usually the upper arm.
Basic immunization by hepatitis B vaccination always consists of several vaccinations:
– Two basic vaccinations, given at intervals of four to six weeks – One booster, given after six to eight mon.
Therefore, before traveling to a high-risk region, you should think about a preventive hepatitis B vaccination in good time. The protection provided by the vaccination usually lasts for ten years, after which a booster should be given, which is then done with a single injection.
Tolerance and obligation of hepatitis B vaccination
The tolerance of the hepatitis B vaccination is very good in most cases, since the purity of the vaccine is extremely high. Allergic reactions rarely occur. Are hardly worth mentioning in your form temporally as well as circumferentially.
Especially if you travel a lot, you should consider immunization with a combination preparation. A vaccine against hepatitis A and hepatitis B is available and is covered by some health insurance companies.
Incidentally, people in need of care should not be afraid of infection on the part of the nursing staff. Anyone working in the medical or nursing field MUST have a vaccination against hepatitis B.
In addition, nurses always work with disposable gloves, so that infection with hepatitis B and other diseases via this route is virtually ruled out in Germany.
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This article makes no claim to completeness and only provides general information. It cannot and should not replace medical advice from a medical doctor. Before taking any medication, please read the package insert carefully and consult your doctor or pharmacist.