Hepatitis B Virus

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Author: 
Adoptive Families Association of BC
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine

Definition
Hepatitis B is one of the most common virus in the world.  It is a disease which attacks and inflames the liver.  It is transmitted directly through blood and other infected bodily fluids.  The disease can remain dormant, or develop actively, into a chronic condition which may threaten life by destroying liver functions. 

Causes
This disease is caused by a viral infection which is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.  This includes blood to blood contact, transfusions or injections which have been contaminated, unprotected sex with a carrier, as well as from mother to child during the birthing process. 

Characteristics
HBV can be a dangerous disease because it is possible to be infected without knowing about it.  Symptoms do not always appear until much later in life and if left untreated it can become chronic or be passed on to another without knowing.  For this reason early detection, although difficult, is key. 

The first symptoms which usually arise are flu-like, including :

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • joint pain
  • rash

More serious symptoms may include:

  • jaundice
  • bloating
  • nausea

These symptoms are signs that the infection is progressing.  The most serious result of HBV is the potentially life threatening damage it can cause in the patient’s liver. 
This includes:

  • cirrhosis - where the functioning tissue of an organ is attacked and replaced by fibrous tissue, damaging the organ’s capabilities.
  • hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) - abnormal tissue growth which spreads tumor-like throughout an organ.

Treatment
For those not yet affected by the disease there is a vaccine which effectively prevents the infection.  A booster is needed after 10 years to maintain its effectiveness.

Unfortunately for those already infected, there is no complete cure for Hepatitis B.  However there are medications which are very effective in slowing the progress of the disease and in some cases it is forced into remission.

Complications
The liver is an essential organ in the body.  It is a filter system which aids in digestion and extracts nutrients from food.  It also draws out toxins and waste from the body. 

When the liver’s function is interrupted or damaged it is unable to keep up with the demands of the body.  Therefore the body does not absorb all the nutrients it requires and toxins are allowed to remain, slowly poisoning the body.  


This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.

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