Agency adds Hepatitis B to screening list
Cdc notes that two-thirds of those infected may not know it
Have you ever been screened for hepatitis B? If not, the CDC is now recommending you add it to the list.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week added a new recommendation for the screening, estimating that 580,000 to 2.4 million people live with the illness, and two-thirds might not realize it.
Many people infected with hepatitis B eventually clear the infection from their systems, but in some cases, it can lead to chronic hepatitis B (HBV), which is a serious, lifelong illness, the CDC notes.
Over time, chronic hepatitis B can lead to a host of health problems, including cirrhosis, liver cancer and death, the CDC reports.
According to the CDC, those with chronic hepatitis B infections are 70-85% more likely to die prematurely than those without it.
“HBV is transmitted through contact with infected blood or body fluids, such as during pregnancy or delivery, through sex, or by injection drug use,” the CDC reports. It can also be transmitted by sharing contaminated items like toothbrushes or razors. The virus can live outside the body for at least seven days, during which time it is still capable of causing infection.
But here’s something important
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“Although the hepatitis B virus can be found in saliva, it is not spread through kissing or sharing utensils. Hepatitis B is not spread through sneezing, coughing, hugging, breastfeeding or through food or water,” the CDC reports.
There is a vaccination for hepatitis B which is “highly effective” in preventing HBV infection and later liver disease, but according to the CDC, at of 2018, 70% of adults in the U.S. say they are unvaccinated.
And, readers, that’s the first step – getting vaccinated.
The CDC recommends everyone from infants to age 59 get vaccinated. Those 60 and older with risk factors for hepatitis B should also get the vaccination.
The symptoms of a short-term hepatitis B infection can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice.
However, many people have no symptoms, but can still spread the virus to others, the CDC notes.
People with chronic hepatitis B may not have any symptoms nor feel ill, and can remain symptom-free for decades, the CDC reports, which is part of what makes hepatitis B so challenging and why testing is so important.
If you develop chronic hepatitis B, there is no cure. However, there are medications that can help, and in turn reduce the risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer.
With the CDC’S new recommendations in mind, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the hepatitis B vaccination and screening. It’s an easy step to take that can lead to better health down the road – and we’re all for that.
And, readers, as a reminder, if you are in need of any vaccinations, the Yuma County Public Health Services District is a great starting point. Give them a call at 928-317-4559 to learn more.
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