Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus which is a major cause of chronic liver disease worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia, including Thailand. Chronic hepatitis B is strongly associated with hepatic fibrosis and development of liver cancer. The virus is passed from person to person through blood, semen, saliva or other body fluids. Common routes of transmission that hepatitis B virus can spread are:
- Mother to child during childbirth;
- Direct contact with blood or open wound of infected person;
- Sexual contact and
- Sharing certain equipment that can spread the virus e.g. needles and toothbrushes. In addition, hepatitis B is a concern for health care workers and anyone else who come in contact with human blood.
After being infected and acute hepatitis B develops, the immune system can usually get rid of viruses from the body. Some people have complete recovery within a few months with a lifelong immunity. However, chronic hepatitis B lasting six months or longer might develop in some cases since the immune system cannot fight off the infection. Chronic hepatitis B infection may last a lifetime, possibly leading to serious illnesses, such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Most adults with hepatitis B infection fully recover, although their signs and symptoms are severe. Infants and children are more likely to develop a chronic hepatitis B infection.
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