Hepatitis B

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Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B infection can lead to long-term liver disease which, left unmanaged, can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer. In Australia it is the leading cause of primary liver cancer with over 470 hepatitis B related deaths in 2019. About three quarters of the deaths were from hepatitis B related liver cancer and the remaining from hepatitis B related cirrhosis.

Hepatitis B virus is transmitted when blood from a person with the hepatitis B virus enters the bloodstream of a person with no hepatitis B immunity. It is also transmitted via the semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person. The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least seven days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.

The most effective protection against hepatitis B is vaccination.

To know if you are immune or if you have a current hepatitis B infection, or which stage your chronic hepatitis B is at, you will need to have a blood test done.

Currently, the main aim of most hepatitis B treatment is to reduce liver damage by controlling the replication of the virus. This helps to cut down the risk of serious disease, enabling the liver to repair itself. Not everyone with chronic hepatitis B needs treatment all the time. Treatment is started when the virus enters an active phase.

The decision of when to treat and what treatment to use, is complex and needs to be made by a specialist based on individual assessments.

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