How to screen for hepatitis B and why?
What is hepatitis B, by the way?
Too often discarded, Hepatitis B is still a potentially dangerous sexually transmitted infection. Viral hepatitis means that the liver is being attacked by a virus. There exists five known types of viral hepatitis, but hepatitis B is the most frequently sexually transmitted form.
An important number of patients infected with the hepatitis B virus show no symptoms and do not feel sick. It is estimated that 5% of adults living with hepatitis B will develop a chronic form of the infection that can lead to cirrhosis,and even liver cancer. Hepatitis B is contagious even in the absence of symptoms.
Hepatitis B is often referred to as being acute at the time of transmission, and later chronic if the host’s immune system cannot defend itself from the virus and remains in a permanent state of inflammation.
How is hepatitis transmitted?
The hepatitis B virus can be found in blood and biological fluids. Contacts that might be at risk would therefore include unprotected sexual contacts or contact with the saliva, blood or other secretions from an infected individual.
The incubation period can last for months, but modern screening methods are often positive around three weeks post exposition.
How do I know if I have hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B screening is done through a simple blood test. You may opt to screen only for hepatitis B, or test it along others during a routine STI test. Our team is there to ensure you have all the information in hand to know if, when, and why you should undergo a blood test for hepatitis B.
Did you know …?
- The hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more contagious than the HIV virus, which makes a single unprotected contact with the virus very risky.
- Hepatitis B has a varying prevalence depending on the world region being observed. Africa and South Eastern Asia hold the highest rates of people living with hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis A is also part of the viral hepatitis virus family, but is contracted through contaminated water or food.
- Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted by blood, making the probability of contracting hepatitis C through sexual contact lower.
Effective vaccination is available to protect yourself from hepatitis B, ask us about it! The majority of Canadian students are vaccinated in elementary school against hepatitis B, which should allow for immunity throughout adulthood. However, not all individuals have been vaccinated, and some have not developed a satisfactory immunity after vaccination.