Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is a major global health problem. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.Symptoms: Most people do not experience any symptoms during the acute infection phase. However, some people have acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Causes: The virus also can pass from a mother to her newborn child at birth or soon afterward. Most adults with hepatitis B get better, but a small percentage can't shake the disease and become carriers, which means they can spread it to others even when their own symptoms disappear.Diagnosis: Laboratory diagnosis of hepatitis B infection focuses on the detection of the hepatitis B surface antigen HBsAg. Acute HBV infection is characterized by the presence of HBsAg and immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody to the core antigen, HBcAg. The presence of HBeAg indicates that the blood and body fluids of the infected individual are highly contagious.
Treatment: care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Chronic hepatitis B infection can be treated with drugs, including oral antiviral agents. Statistics: Of the 157 notifications of hepatitis B for people living in WA, SA, and the NT in 2004-2006, 30 (19%) were identified as being Indigenous (Indigenous status was not stated in 23% of cases). The crude notification rate of 6.3 per 100,000 for Indigenous people was 5.5 times the rate of 1.1 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous people.