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Having covered in depth details on Hepatitis B in past publications, this article will help readers bust the top 10 myths about the virus.
10 myths of Hepatitis B
Hepatitis b can be transmitted through casual contact such as kissing, hugging, handshakes or sharing of meals and utensils with someone who has the disease.
The disease can only be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, blood to blood contact such as exposure to contaminated equipments while doing tattoo or at barber shops, sharing of needles or syringes among intravenous drug abusers or from an infected mother to her child at birth.
Hepatitis B can be transmitted via mosquito bites
Hepatitis b cannot be transmitted by any insect bites, including mosquitoes.
Some examples of mosquito transmitted infections includes dengue and malaria but not Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is genetical and hereditary. It can be passed from parents to child.
Hepatitis B is not genetical and cannot be inherited. It is an infectious disease.
It can however be passed from an infected mother to child during the birth process due to contact with blood and body fluid.
All patients with Hepatitis B infection will have symptoms such as jaundice, which is the yellowing of the eye or skin. I have always been healthy, I don’t think I have Hepatitis B.
Jaundice is one of the many signs of liver problems. Not all Hepatitis B infection causes liver problems right away. Many hepatitis B patients usually do no have any noticeable signs and symptoms. They may only experience symptoms when they have more advanced disease and their liver cannot function normally.
The only sure way to find out whether you have been infected or not is by doing a Hepatitis B blood test.
Hepatitis B is only an acute infection. The person’s body will have its own way to clear the virus and he or she will recover fully from it.
Hepatitis B infection can be acute or it can be long term. In fact, 90-95% of infants who contracted Hepatitis B will develop chronic infection or long term infection.
25-50% of children between 1 to 5 years old will develop also develop long term hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis B is rare in Singapore. We are such a clean country with such a great healthcare. I do not have to worry about it.
Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. In fact, Hepatitis B is the most common human hepatitis virus in Singapore. 6% of the Singapore’s population are Hepatitis B carriers and most of the infections were acquired during birth and early childhood. So do not assume that Singapore has a very low risk of Hepatitis B infection.
My doctor definitely would have told me if I had Hepatitis B as I do health screenings every year.
Hepatitis B check is not a routine blood test. You should not assume you have been tested before. Please ask your doctor about Hepatitis B testing to be sure.
There is no treatment available for chronic hepatitis B. There is no point for me to be on follow up.
The disease is not curable, but it is manageable. For chronic hepatitis B, effective treatment and monitoring can manage the disease and prevent it from worsening.
It is also vital that patients with chronic Hepatitis B go for regular liver checks to look out for serious complications like liver failure or even cancer.
Hepatitis B vaccine prevents liver cancer and enhances healing in infected patients.
Vaccine prevents infection in people who have not contracted Hepatitis B virus yet.
In doing so, we will be able to prevent liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B infection.
However, take note that the vaccine is ineffective for people who are already infected and it will not lead to healing.
Once I am vaccinated for Hepatitis B, I am protected for life. I do not need to worry anymore about contracting the virus
Hepatitis B vaccine may not last forever. In some cases, immunity conferred by the vaccine may wear off over time.
If you have been vaccinated but at high risk of contracting the virus, do have a discussion with your doctor about a blood test to determine if a vaccine booster shot is required.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)