The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a contagious, usually acute infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus. The virus can be spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. The most common means of transmission are through sexual contact, childbirth, and contact with the blood of an infected person via cuts or sores on the skin, or by sharing needles when injecting drugs.

Symptoms
An acute episode of Hepatitis B can cause loss of appetite; fatigue; pain in the muscles, joints, or stomach; diarrhea and vomiting; and jaundice. In some cases, people may go on to develop a chronic illness, which can result in liver damage (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. Newborns and children are more likely to develop chronic Hepatitis B than are adults.

Treatment
For an acute episode, resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating a healthy diet are the best ways to let the liver heal. The acute illness usually goes away after 2 to 3 weeks, and the liver returns to normal within 4 to 6 months. During the acute phase, the liver should be monitored with blood tests. Chronic Hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral medications or a medication called peginterferon. People with this condition should avoid alcohol and check with their doctors before taking any medications, including acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Frequent monitoring of liver function is also recommended.

Prevention
There is a vaccine available for Hepatitis B, and since 1991 children in the United States have routinely received the inoculation. The vaccine is given in a series of three or four shots. Children receive their first shot as a newborn and are done with the regimen by 6 to 18 months of age. All adolescents and adults who were not vaccinated as children should receive the shots. Since widespread vaccination began, the incidence of Hepatitis B has decreased by more than 95 percent among children and by 75 percent in all other age groups.

Sources:
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en
http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv

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What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: The only way public health agencies can deal with infectious disease is to have good surveillance in place, wait for an outbreak to happen in a human population, and then rush to contain it.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    By identifying pathogens in the animals where they naturally live and monitoring those organisms as they move from animals into people, it may be possible to prevent deadly new infections of animal origin from entering and racing through human populations.

  • Correct!

    By identifying pathogens in the animals where they naturally live and monitoring those organisms as they move from animals into people, it may be possible to prevent deadly new infections of animal origin from entering and racing through human populations.

Infectious Disease Defined

Gastrointestinal Tract

The structure in the body, beginning with the mouth and extending to the anus, through which food is ingested, broken down, and absorbed to provide the body with nutrients, and waste products are excreted.

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