Hepatitis B virus can cause acute or chronic infection of the liver. Most people with acute hepatitis B infection recover but some may develop a chronic infection of the liver. Treatment for chronic infection with hepatitis B is not very effective. Such an infection can cause liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Hence prevention of infection with the hepatitis B virus is important. Here are some ways to prevent infection with hepatitis B virus:
Hepatitis B vaccine: You can prevent getting infected with hepatitis B virus by getting vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine. Vaccines are drugs which help to prevent you from getting sick. Vaccines make your body system to attack the specific germs for which you have received the vaccine. After getting the hepatitis B vaccine, your body is ready to attack the hepatitis B virus.
All adults and children should get the hepatitis B vaccine as everyone is at risk of getting infected with the virus. Three shots of the vaccine are given over a period of several months. The first dose can be given to a newborn as well (as there is no minimum age for vaccination). The second shot is given 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third shot is given at least two months after the second shot, but no sooner than four months after the first. Hepatitis B vaccine can be given even to pregnant women.
All three doses should be taken to be fully protected. People travelling to a country where hepatitis B is common should receive all the shots before travelling. However, if you can’t receive all the three shots before you go due to time constraint, get as many as you can. Incomplete vaccination may provide some protection against the virus.
Other ways to protect you from hepatitis B infection include:
- Use a condom during sex. Condoms are considered to be one of the best ways to prevent any STD or getting diseases which can be transmitted sexually. Using a condom for every sexual contact can significantly reduce your risk of getting infected with hepatitis B virus. However, condoms are not 100% effective in preventing transmission. Homosexual men should get vaccinated for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
- Avoid sharing drug needles or other equipment.
- Avoid sharing anything that might be contaminated with blood, including personal items such as a razor, toothbrush, fingernail clippers, etc.
- If you are a health care worker, follow standard precautions (such as wearing gloves) and handle needles and sharp objects safely.
- If you want to have tattoos or body piercings on yourself, ensure that they are done with sterile tools.
- If you are exposed to the hepatitis B virus, consult your doctor right away. Vaccination taken along with medicine called hepatitis B immune globulin can prevent you from getting sick.
About the Author: Dr Poonam Sachdeva
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