Hepatitis B is the most common form of Hepatitis. In the United States there are approximately 300,000 new cases of Hepatitis B (HBV) every year.
"Hepatitis" means "inflammation of the liver." It is a liver disease which can lead to more serious conditions such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. While there is no "cure" for Hepatitis B, many people who contract the disease will develop antibodies which help them get over the infection. Those who do not will become "carriers", people who carry the infection for life. In a small number of cases, the disease can be fatal. While anyone can get Hepatitis, the chances of contracting the disease on the job are very slim. Like AIDS, the disease is NOT transmitted through casual contact.
You can't contract HBV by:
The HBV pathogen may be present in body fluids such as saliva, semen, vaginal secretions and any body fluids visibly contaminated with blood. Because of this the primary means of transmission are:
The symptoms of HBV are very much like a mild "flu." Initially there is a sense of fatigue, possible stomach pain, loss of appetite, and even nausea. As the disease continued to develop, jaundice (a distinct yellowing of the skin and eyes), and a darkened urine will often occur. However, people who are infected with HBV will often show no symptoms for some time. After exposure it can take 2-6 months for Hepatitis to develop. This is extremely important, since vaccinations begun immediately after exposure to the virus can often prevent infection.
While there is a vaccine for Hepatitis B, it is also necessary to use "Universal Precautions" when dealing with potentially infected materials. Often, people infected with Hepatitis B or HIV do not know they are infected, and you cannot tell just by looking whether or not someone is infected with a bloodborne disease. It is therefore necessary to treat all blood and body fluids as if they may be contaminated. Never reuse syringes, acupuncture or tattooing needles. Do not clean up broken glass with your fingers - use a brush and dustpan instead - and never dispose in a regular trash bag where custodians could get cut when they empty the trash. Disinfect potentially contaminated materials and surfaces with a 10% bleach solution. Make sure you don't splash blood or contaminated body fluids into eyes, cuts, sores, or open lesions. If you do contact someone else's blood, wash quickly and thoroughly with soap and water.
By following these simple precautions, you can protect yourself from all bloodborne pathogens, not just Hepatitis B.