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article imageShould hepatitis B screening be introduced?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 3, 2014 in Health
Los Angeles - Some health professionals are recommending that all teens and adults who are high risk for hepatitis B get screened for the infection. A simple blood test can detect if a person is one of the 2 billion people worldwide infected with hepatitis B.
The recommendation has come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. One of the reasons for the recommendation is because many people with hepatitis B do not show any symptoms so they are not diagnosed which means they keep transmitting the disease to others. According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, up to 100,000 people in the U.S. get the virus each year, and 10 million to 30 million people in the world are infected.
According to the Task Force, individuals considered to be high risk for hepatitis B and who are recommended to be screened include:
Adolescents and adults not vaccinated for Hepatitis B at birth.
People born in countries with a high rate of hepatitis B infection. These include Africa, Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, China, the Middle Eastern, Eastern Europe and the northern countries of South America such as Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
People whose parents were born in countries with a high rate of infection.
People with HIV.
People who inject drugs.
Men who have sex with men.
People who live with or have sex with someone with hepatitis B.
Patients with weakened immune systems or who are receiving kidney dialysis.
A mother infected with hepatitis B can transmit the disease to her baby. Medication can be given to the child to prevent the infection from spreading.
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that is passed from person to person through blood and bodily fluids. There are two varieties of the disease: acute hepatitis B causes illness for a short term before recovery. Chronic hepatitis B is ongoing and can cause life-threatening liver damage. Treatment for hepatitis B ranges from antiviral medication to stop the virus from multiplying to liver transplantation in cases of extreme illness.
There are several ways by which hepatitis B can spread. These, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
Have sex with an infected person without using a condom.
Share needles (used for injecting drugs) with an infected person.
Get a tattoo or piercing with tools that weren't sterilized.
Share personal items like razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.
Those who think that they might have contracted hepatitis B are advised to visit medical centers for testing and advice, according to the Loyola University Health System.
The Task Force also provides some guidance about the symptoms of hepatitis B. These include:
Feeling very tired.
Mild fever.
Not wanting to eat.
Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting.
Belly pain.
Diarrhea or constipation.
Muscle aches and joint pain.
Skin rash.
Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice). Jaundice usually appears only after other symptoms have started to go away.
The recommendation from the Task Force for screening is likely to prove controversial with some groups. However, it is the view of the Task Force that such preventative measures will reduce the incidence of hepatitis B in the community.
More about hepatitis b, Virus, Testing, Screening, health checks
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