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Occupational Health, Safety & Welfare
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Hepatitis B is a virus that spreads through the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. Many people do not even realise they have been infected with the virus. This is because symptoms may not develop immediately, or at all.
The incubation period (time from coming into contact with the virus to developing the infection) is between one and six months. A blood test is carried out to detect the virus.
The virus is present in body fluids such as blood, saliva and semen. It can be passed from person to person through unprotected sex (without using a condom) or by sharing needles to inject drugs. Infected mothers can also transmit the virus to their baby during childbirth.
Many people do not have any symptoms if they contract hepatitis B, although they can still pass the virus on to others. Other people will have some symptoms similar to those of hepatitis A. Common symptoms include:
flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, general aches and pains, headaches and fever,
loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhoea,
abdominal pains, and
jaundice -this occurs because your inflamed liver is unable to remove bilirubin, a substance in the blood that causes your skin and the whites of your eyes to become yellow.
Many people who have hepatitis B as adults will clear the infection and become immune. However, the disease is said to be chronic when you have been infected for longer than six months. Some people are carriers and have no symptoms, remaining healthy while clearing the virus from their bodies. They may not even know they have been affected.
Others, especially babies and children, will have symptoms that come and go. This is similar to the acute stage, symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and jaundice. These people may then go on to develop irreversible scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis, and may eventually develop liver cancer.
There is a vaccine available to protect against hepatitis B.
For further information on Hepatitis B click on the NHS below: