By Matara Wright, MS
St. Hope Foundation
Although many of us may not be overseas, we are still fighting our own battle in health care here in the United States. Within the past few years, the U.S has seen increases in infection rates of many STDs and viruses including Hepatitis B (HBV). In 2007 alone, it was estimated that there were over 43,000 new HBV cases in the United States(1). This number did not reflect the number of individuals who had contracted the virus prior to that year. As you can see, the virus has invaded our borders and each of us needs to prepare for battle.
Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver(2). The liver functions in the human body to remove harmful substances from our blood before it goes to the rest of the body. In addition to serving as a defense mechanism, it absorbs medications into the body so that they begin to take effect and also send proteins throughout the body. Without proper liver functioning, your medications would not work and various potentially deadly toxins would continue to float throughout your system. When the hepatitis B virus attacks your liver, you are at risk for decreased liver functioning or even complete liver failure.
Symptoms of hepatitis B include stomach pain, feeling tired, upset stomach, fevers, dark colored urine,
pain in the joints and clay colored bowels. It almost feels like the flu. The interesting thing about
Hepatitis B is that you could have the virus and not experience any symptoms until extensive damage
has occurred to your liver.
There are two types of Hepatitis B- Acute and Chronic(3). Acute HBV infection occurs when a person has the virus but it manages to clear own its own in a few weeks or months. Chronic HBV occurs when the body cannot fight off the virus on its own and must be treated using special medication. The younger you are the more likely it is for your Hepatitis B infection to be chronic.
Now you may be wondering, “How do I contract this virus and what can I do to protect myself?” HBV is contracted through via VSB: vaginal fluid, seminal fluid and blood. What this means is that hepatitis B can be contracted through unprotected sex (oral, anal, vaginal), razors, toothbrushes, syringes, open sores, piercings and tattoos(4). Hepatitis B cannot be contracted through saliva or casual contact. The best protection is to get the HBV vaccine. Vaccines and screenings are available at most health care centers including MyWellnessPlace which provides special rates. The vaccine is recommended for all children and teens under the age of 19, and anyone who may be exposed to the virus via personal lifestyle or profession. The vaccine will prepare your immune system to battle the virus in the event that you are exposed to it. In addition to being vaccinated, it is best to use condoms during sexual activity, use your own personal hygiene items and ensure that your piercing studio or tattoo parlor of choice are exercising proper sterilization techniques.
Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause liver damage and even death. However, you can protect yourself from this virus and prepare your body for battle. By getting vaccinated as well as having routine Hepatitis screenings, you can fully protect yourself and the body parts that help to protect your liver.
Get your Hepatitis B vaccinations today at MyWellnessPlace by calling 713.844.8035.
(1)CDC.gov, (2)WebMD.com, (3)WebMD.com, (4)CDC.gov