The latest results from hepatitis B testing show that the disease affects about 350 million people worldwide. In Asia, more than 10 percent of the population is thought to be infected, but in the U.S. the infection rate is below .5 percent.
Each year, an estimated 600,000 people worldwide die from complications related to hepatitis B.
Q: How Is Hepatitis B Transmitted?
A: Hepatitis B can be transmitted by sexual contact, mother-to-child infection, re-use of infected needles and blood transfusions. Because it can be passed on sexually, most STD testing facilities offer Hepatitis B testing services.
Hepatitis B is more contagious than HIV, largely because it remains more stable outside the body than other blood-borne pathogens.
Q: How Is Hepatitis B Treated?
A: Hepatitis B treatment varies depending on individual circumstances. It can take any of the following forms:
- No treatment: The immune systems of some infected people are able to clear hepatitis B without active treatment.
- Antiviral medication: Some with a positive STD test for hepatitis B end up with a chronic version of the illness. For these people, antiviral medications can suppress the virus’s spread and thus lower the patient’s chances of liver damage.
- Immune system modulators: These medications are intended for people who have weakened immune systems when they contract hepatitis B.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?
A: Some infected people may never seek hepatitis B testing because of a total lack of symptoms. Those who have acute hepatitis B may suffer from:
- Appetite loss
- Aches and pains
- Dark urine
- Mild fever
- Jaundice (later).
These symptoms generally clear after a few weeks. Chronic hepatitis B sufferers may also be asymptomatic but can have periodic liver swelling. Those with the chronic form of the disease are at risk for liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Q: Is Hepatitis B an STD?
A: Yes, though it can also be passed along by other means. Hepatitis B testing is available at most clinics and from most services that offer STD testing. And the CDC recommends that STD screening facilities offer vaccines for at-risk populations in addition to hepatitis B testing.