Hepatitis B vaccine

November 12, 2012

Hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B is a very serious condition that affects the liver and is very contagious.

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It may cause short term illness or long term infection and is easily contracted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, it is also possible to be infected as the result of touching a contaminated object – the virus remains active for up to seven days. A pregnant woman may infect her baby during the delivery process.

Short term illness

Short term illness with symptoms as the result of Hepatitis B is more common in adults – infected children do not usually have demonstrate symptoms. Symptoms may include -

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle, joint and stomach pain

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting

  • Jaundice

Long term infection

Some people may develop a long term hepatitis B infection which usually shows no symptoms, but remains highly contagious and can lead to liver damage, liver cancer and even death.

Becoming infected

It is possible to become infected with the hepatitis B virus in a number of ways -

  • Contact with blood or body fluids as a result of skin breaks – such as bites, cuts etc.

  • Contact with contaminated objects such as toothbrushes, razors.

  • As a result of unprotected sex with an infected person

  • Sharing needles during drug use

  • Receiving a needle stick injury

What about the hepatitis B vaccine?

The hepatitis B vaccination can prevent contraction of hepatitis B and the serious consequences of infection – including liver damage and cancer. The hepatitis B vaccination is usually administered on its’ own or in combination with other vaccines and gives long term protection against the virus.

Do I need to get the vaccine?

If you have not already been received the hepatitis B vaccination then you should certainly consider it if you are in one of the high risk groups, including -

  • Partners of those with hepatitis B infection

  • Men who engage in sex with other men

  • Those with multiple sex partners

  • Intravenous drug users

  • Those with chronic liver or kidney disease

  • Diabetes sufferers below 60 years of age

  • People who are exposed to human blood or bodily fluids in the workplace

  • HIV patients

  • Travellers to countries with a known hepatitis B presence

Anybody who feels they want or need the hepatitis B vaccination can receive it and should see their medical practitioner to arrange the necessary appointments.

Not for everyone

The hepatitis B vaccine is not suitable for everybody; there are some instances where the vaccine should be avoided -

  • The presence of a life threatening allergy to yeast or any of the other components of the vaccine.

  • A severe reaction to a dose of the vaccine may mean a delay in further dosing or an end to treatment.

  • A life threatening allergic reaction to a dose of the vaccine will conclude the treatment.

Risks of the vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccination is extremely safe; it is created from non-infectious products and cannot cause hepatitis B infection. Some recipients of the vaccine have reported soreness at the injection site and/or a low grade fever.

If you are a blood donor you may be asked to wait for 28 days after your vaccination in order to avoid mistakes in screening.

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