Tag Archives: Chronic Infection

Hepatitis B Virus General Information

Hepatitis B is an infectious hepatitis caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This infection has two phases; acute phase and chronic phase.

  1. Acute hepatitis B refers to newly acquired infections. Affected individuals experience symptoms approximately 1 to 4 months after exposure to the virus. This is the incubation period of hepatitis B. In most people with acute hepatitis, symptoms resolve over weeks to months and they are cured of the infection. However, a small number of people develop a very severe, life-threatening form of acute hepatitis called fulminant hepatitis.
  2. Chronic hepatitis B is an infection with HBV that lasts longer than 6 months. Once the infection becomes chronic, it never goes away completely.

Approximately 90% to 95% of infected adults are able to fight off the virus so their infection is cured. Only about 5% to 10% of adults infected with HBV go on to develop chronic infection. Children are at much higher risk for chronic infection than adults. Up to 90% of infected young children will fail to clear the virus from their bodies and go on to develop chronic infection.

About two-thirds of people with chronic HBV infection are chronic carriers. These people do not develop symptoms, even though they harbor the virus and can transmit it to other people. The remaining one third develops “chronic active” hepatitis, a disease of the liver that can be very serious and life threatening. Continue reading

Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B treatment

What is treatment of hepatitis?

Acute infection

Acute infection with hepatitis B usually does not require treatment. In rare cases, however, the infection may cause life-threatening liver failure. Patients with liver failure due to acute hepatitis B should be evaluated for liver transplantation. Small studies suggest that the drug lamivudine (Epivir) may be effective in this setting.

Chronic infection

If a person is chronically infected with hepatitis B and has few signs or symptoms of complications, medications usually are not used. These patients are watched carefully and are advised to go for certain blood tests. One test measures the ‘viral load,’ that is, the amount of viral DNA in the blood. Doctors will recommend treatment if there are signs that the virus is beginning to cause damage or if the viral load is high. Another reason to prescribe medication is if the patient has a positive test for the Hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) in the blood. HBeAg is associated with an increased risk of progression of liver disease and its complications.

In chronic hepatitis B, the goal of treatment is to reduce the risk of complications including cirrhosis and liver failure. Tests like the viral load or liver function tests are used to evaluate if medicines are working. People who have large amounts of the virus in their blood are at highest risk to get cirrhosis. Up to one-third of people with very high viral loads (more than one million viral copies per milliliter of blood) will develop cirrhosis over a decade, compared to only 4.5% of those with low viral loads (less than 300 viral copies per milliliter). Continue reading