A few short months ago, a friend of mine from high school passed away from liver cancer, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. He was only 38 years old. Before he died, my friend wanted to spread awareness about hepatitis B and its prevalence in Vietnamese-Americans and potential to turn into one of the most aggressive liver cancers.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by hep B virus (HBV). It is transmitted when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with Hep B enters the body of the someone who is not infected – sexual contacts, sharing needles, syringes, drug-injection equipment, and mother to baby. Exposure to HBV often result in a self-limiting infection that can be asymptomatic or present as acute hepatitis, usually followed by immunity. However, in about 6-10% of those infected, acute infection turns into chronic infection. These chronically infected people can transmit the virus to others. Left untreated, 1 in 4 of those with chronic hep B can develop serious liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver damage, and liver cancer. Persons with HBV infection have a risk of developing liver cancer over 200 times greater than those not infected.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Symptoms of acute hepatitis B infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice. Most people with chronic infection do not have any symptoms.
Cover image by: Altmann, Gerd. https://pixabay.com/en/dna-genetic-material-helix-proteins-3539309/#=. Accessed 16 Oct 2018.