Notes for Hepatitis B
What is meant by Hepatitis B (HB) carrier?
- Hepatitis B carrier is a term used to describe those who have hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in the blood for more than 6 months. Most of them have no symptoms and are unaware of their status as Hepatitis B carrier.
- Unfortunately, these otherwise healthy people can infect others without knowing it.
When was I infected?
- It is not possible to tell from the laboratory results when you were infected.
- In Hong Kong, most Hepatitis B carriers are infected in their infancy and childhood.
How did I get the Hepatitis B virus?
HBV is mainly transmitted through contact of blood and body fluid:
- From infected mother to her baby during birth.
- Through unsafe sex (without use of condoms).
- By sharing contaminated needles and personal care items e.g. shaver, razor, toothbrush.
- Through needle stick / sharp injuries at work.
What would happen to me if I am a carrier?
- The majority of chronic Hepatitis B carrier do not develop chronic hepatitis and do not require treatment.
- About a quarter of the carriers would develop chronic hepatitis. These people are at increased risk of having serious liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
How am I going to look after myself?
- To maintain good health and to increase resistance against diseases. This can be achieved through having a balanced diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise.
- Avoid alcohol and medications that might damage the liver. Seek medical advice before taking medications.
- Vaccination against Hepatitis A if not immune.
- Regular check-up to detect any damages in the liver so as to obtain early treatment. For all hepatitis B carriers, we encourage checking liver function (ALT) every 6 months. For those who are over 30, additional 6 monthly tests include:
- ultrasonographic liver examination
How can I avoid spreading the virus to other people?
- Prevent other people from coming into contact with your blood. In case of bleeding or trauma, the wounds should be dressed properly.
- Items contaminated by the carrier’s blood should be disinfected with bleach.
- Contaminated clothing: immerse the item in 1:49 household bleach for 30 minutes before washing.
- Contaminated furniture or toilet seat: wipe with 1:4 household bleach.
- Inform health care workers such as doctors, dentists and nurses that you are a Hepatitis B carrier.
- Practice ‘Safer Sex’. Always use condom during sexual intercourse.
- Advise all household contacts and regular sexual partners to have their blood checked for Hepatitis B and ensure that they are vaccinated if necessary. (Antibody to Hepatitis B virus can be tested 1-2 months after the 3rd vaccine)
- Do not share personal care items, such as shaver, razor, toothbrush and nail clipper.
- Do not share needles or any other injecting equipment with others.
- Do not donate blood, sperm or other body organs.
- Babies born to Hepatitis B carrier mothers should receive Hepatitis B vaccine along with Hepatitis B Immunoglobulin (HBIG) shortly after birth.
Consult your doctor if you have the following symptoms
- Signs of acute Hepatitis: weakness, fatigue, fever, vomiting, yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice).