Hepatitis means ‘liver inflammation’. It is caused by a virus, and although there are several kinds of hepatitis virus, Hep A and B are the most common.
It is caught through the contamination of food and water with faeces (poo) through poor personal hygiene or sanitation.
What is it?
Hepatitis B is a virus which spreads through the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. It is a serious condition causing inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV, with many people not even realising they have been infected with the virus. This is because symptoms may not develop immediately, or at all. The incubation period (time from coming into contact with the virus to developing the infection) is between one and six months. The hepatitis B virus can go on to cause a chronic (long-term) illness, which follows an acute infection. This is very common in babies and young children, but it can also occur in adults. If you develop chronic hepatitis B, you may remain well, but you may pass on the virus because you are a carrier. Symptoms may come and go or you may have no symptoms at all, or you may develop serious liver damage.
How do I know if I’ve got it?
Usually there are no symptoms but you may notice unusual tiredness, flu-like symptoms, general aches and pains, headaches and fever. Other symptoms may include feeling sick / loss of appetite, diarrhoea, dark urine, bloated and sore stomach and yellowish colour in skin and eyes.
How do you get it?
The virus is present in body fluids such as blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluid. It can be passed from person to person, such as through unprotected sex (without using a condom) , anal sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs, for tattoo’s and piercings. It can also be caught through sharing a toothbrush / nail clippers / razors or through contact with an infected person’s open sores or blood. Infected mothers can also transmit the virus to their baby during childbirth (often without the woman being aware that she is infected).
Can I get rid of it?
Many people who have Hep B as adults will clear the infection and become immune. However, some people can be carriers of the infection for years and still be able to spread it. You can get the vaccine for Hep B from your GP to act as a preventative measure.
Rashes, sores, burning, smelling, itching and generally feeling unwell are some symptoms that you may have an STI. BUT most people don’t have any signs or symptoms that they have an STI so always get checked!