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One in 20 doesn't sound like much of a chance. But people buy lottery tickets that have a lot less chance, and everyday thousands gamble at casinos all over the country with worse odds, thinking they'll hit. The truth of the matter is one in 20 equals 5 percent of the population. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that's the number of people who will get Hepatitis B during their lifetime. Hepatitis B is caused by a virus and affects the liver. (Read about "The Liver")
According to the American Gastroenterological Association, Hepatitis B is passed on by direct contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. Because of this, many people with hemophilia have an increased risk (Read about "Bleeding Disorders"), as do people who work with blood products. Hepatitis B can also be transmitted by having unprotected sex with an infected person and by injecting drugs. The American Digestive Health Foundation says people who received blood transfusions before 1972 (when hepatitis B blood screening procedures began) are also at risk.
It's also been found that people who live in the same house with someone with a lifelong Hepatitis B infection are at greater risk, according to CDC. So are people who live or work in daily close personal contact with others, such as in homes for the developmentally disabled.
Also at higher risk are people and the children of people born in regions with a high incidence of Hepatitis B, including Southeast Asia, Africa, the Amazon basin, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East. Travel to areas where Hepatitis B is common can also put someone at higher risk.
And babies are at risk too. An infected mother can easily pass on the disease during childbirth. (Read about "Childbirth") That's why every woman should be tested for Hepatitis B early in pregnancy. If the test is positive, there are ways to help the baby avoid being infected. Check with your doctor.
In addition, hepatitis B itself is a risk factor for hepatitis D. (Read about "Hepatitis D")
A blood test is the only sure way to know if you have or ever have had Hepatitis B. (Read about "Laboratory Testing") An infected person may also have symptoms, such as:
Often, though, there are no symptoms. There are about one million people in the United States today that carry the Hepatitis B virus. They may be spreading the disease without even knowing it because they don't have any symptoms.
There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B. (Read about "Immunizations") The American Liver Foundation says multiple doses are needed for complete protection. Some school districts are already requiring the series before students are allowed to attend. CDC also recommends the vaccine for:
Hepatitis B is avoidable through immunization. It's important to take steps to protect yourself and the ones you love. For some people who have contracted hepatitis B, there are medications, such as interferon and lamivudine, that have been approved to treat the disease. You should discuss this with your doctor. Over time, even with treatment, hepatitis B may cause so much damage that your liver stops working. If that happens, you will need a liver transplant. (Read about "Transplants")
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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