Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver, which can follow a variable course. Hepatitis B can be sexually transmitted, and you should get an STD test at an STD Clinic. The Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) can cause an acute illness that resolves itself quickly without causing long-term liver damage. However, in about 20% of cases it can cause a chronic illness that lasts more than six months, sometimes for life, with symptoms that come and go. In 15-40% of those with chronic infection cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure develop, and so the infection may eventually be fatal. The virus is usually transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids, and can be sexually transmitted. Only a tiny amount of blood is needed to transmit the virus because it is so infectious.
The Hepatitis B Virus may also be present in saliva, vaginal secretions, breast milk and other bodily fluids. In the UK, infection commonly occurs through unprotected sexual intercourse, the sharing of contaminated needles by drugs users, accidental injury with a contaminated needle (if needles used for tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture are contaminated) and sharing razors. You should make sure your STD test includes Hepatitis B if you are worried.
How is Hepatitis B treated ?
STD testing for Hepatitis B is a simple blood test, and is a quick STD test to do as part of your STD Screen. Your Hepatitis B STD test results will be available within one day of your sample being received in the laboratory.
There’s an effective vaccination to protect people from hepatitis B infection. It’s available from your GP or high street travel centres, who will advise you whether you need it. Family and other household members of an infected person should be vaccinated against Hepatitis B. Healthcare workers, the police, the emergency services and anyone who is likely to come in contact with infected blood through their job should also be vaccinated.
The majority of people with Hepatitis B don’t need specific treatment other than rest, and they eventually make a full recovery. However, it is important that the infection is monitored to check whether chronic disease develops, and the person is given advice about the risk of passing the infection on. If the infection lasts more than six months (chronic hepatitis infection, where the virus continues to actively reproduce in the body) you may need more specific drug treatment to reduce the risk of permanent liver damage (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. Your GP should refer you to a specialist in either liver disease or general digestive diseases. They may recommend treatment either with treatment with antiviral drug.
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