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  • Hepatitis B in Canada

    Hepatitis B deserves its place among the STDs. Several million cases occur every year in both developed and undeveloped countries as a result of sexual transmission.

    Hepatitis B is hepcaused by a virus and is transmitted from one person to another by infected body secretions. Once infection occurs, the incubation period can be anywhere from four weeks to six months. However, a blood test may be positive as soon as two weeks after being exposed to the virus.

    Hepatitis B is not an insignificant illness. Russell didn’t know that he was infected until about four months after his marriage to Nell. They had been intimately involved for several years, but Russell had maintained other relationships with both men Buy Cialis Online and women until shortly before their actual marriage. After finally coming to this decision, they had moved away from the ‘big city’ to a more rural area, all primed for an idyllic life together. One weekend, Russell realised that he was feeling exceptionally tired — far more exhausted than a 40-year-old man should feel. Nell had just had a positive pregnancy test, so maybe it was psychological. But by Monday Russell knew that this was definitely not in his head — he felt awful. He had a low-grade fever, muscle aches and extreme fatigue; he also had no appetite and could keep nothing down anyway.

    By Tuesday, his skin had a golden hue and his eyes looked yellow. It was time to see a doctor! Much to his surprise, Dr Clarke hospitalised him. Within a few days, it was confirmed: not only did Russell have hepatitis, but it was hepatitis B. His recovery was slow and, even after he returned home, Russell didn’t return to really feeling quite himself. Six months later, he received the daunting news that he now had chronic hepatitis — much more common with hepatitis B than other forms. By now, he was also a new father and the combination was almost more than he could bear. Not all our stories have happy endings: Russell died of liver cancer two days after his daughter entered kindergarten.

    Russell’s story illustrates the worst-case scenario of hepatitis B. The range can be from very mild illness — kind of like a stomach flu — all the way to acute liver failure from massive liver necrosis (death) or chronic active hepatitis and cancer, like Russell had.

    Hepatitis B is primarily supportive: in the face of nausea and vomiting or diarrhoea, it may be necessary to give the patient IV fluids to treat and prevent dehydration. Rest is imperative and the usual course of the illness is about three months. It is important that follow-up blood tests be done to ensure that the person has recovered and that the illness has not become chronic.

    A carrier state of hepatitis B also exists. In this state, a person may be infectious but not themselves have the clinical illness of hepatitis.

    We are very fortunate now to have a safe and effective vaccine for hepatitis B. In the sexual climate of today, in which few young people will have one sexual partner for life, immunisation against hepatitis B makes lots of sense, not only from a public health point of view, but also as real protection for our young people. The current immunisation guidelines call for primary immunisation of children against hepatitis B at birth.