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Hepatitis B

What is it?

Although hepatitis B is an infection of the liver, it is most often transmitted through sexual contact.

What are the symptoms?

The earliest symptoms of infection include fatigue, headaches, fever, loss of appetite, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In its later stages, hepatitis B may cause dark urine, pale-colored bowel movements, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Often, there are no symptoms at all: 50 percent of those infected with hepatitis B are asymptomatic.

How is it spread?

Hepatitis B is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids like semen, vaginal fluid, blood, and urine. It’s highly contagious and most likely to be transmitted during oral or anal sex and sharing needles.

How is it diagnosed?

A blood test is required to diagnose hepatitis B.

How is it treated?

Hepatitis B has no cure. Since the infection often clears on its own within four to eight weeks after symptoms appear, no treatment is required at first. In a small number of cases (about 1 in 20) it becomes a chronic infection requiring antiviral meds or, in serious cases, a liver transplant. In these cases, carriers are contagious for the rest of their lives. Vaccinations are available to prevent hepatitis B.

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