Hepatitis B (HBV) is a liver disease that is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, alcohol use, drugs or toxins. The spread of HBV normally comes from the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. It can also be spread by sharing contaminated needles or passed from an infected mother to baby during childbirth. People are affected differently by HBV, which can cause mild illness over the course of a few weeks or a chronic disease that may lead to severe liver disorders, such as liver disease or cancer. Many people have hepatitis B and do not know it, and go untreated because they do not feel ill. One of the preventive methods currently encouraged is getting the hepatitis B vaccine. There are normally three to four shots given over a period of six months.
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Many of those who have hepatitis B are affected by what the Hepatitis B Foundation calls "a silent infection." According to the Foundation, about 69 per cent of those infected will not have symptoms and an estimated 30 per cent will have some symptoms. Only about 1 per cent of those infected will develop severe symptoms. Symptoms of acute hepatitis often include fever, fatigue, a loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting, abdominal pain, changes in urine colour and bowel movement consistency, pain in joints and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
The HBV vaccination can cause side effects just as medication does. Some of the common general side effects include pain, itching, swelling and pain at the injection site. Other effects include headache, fatigue, sore throat, fever, flu-like symptoms and achiness. Contact your physician if you have any difficulty moving, stiffness, a rash, problems breathing, pain in the chest, vision problems or tingling in the hands.
CDC on Side Effects
Based on statistics gathered from the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in four people will have soreness where at the injection site. The CDC states that the hepatitis B vaccine is very safe and severe reactions are rare, occurring once in approximately 1.1 million doses.
Anyone who has an allergic reaction to baker's yeast should not receive the hepatitis B vaccine, as this is an ingredient in the vaccine. To make the vaccine, a gene for HBV is inserted into yeast, which is grown, harvest and purified for the vaccination. However, the purification process does not reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Symptoms of allergic reactions often occur within the first few hours of being vaccinated, and include problems breathing, wheezing, hives, weakness, change in heart rate and dizziness. These symptoms can also occur within a few minutes or a few weeks after having received the vaccine. If you had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, speak with your doctor before receiving the next dose in the series.
According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one out of every 600,000 injections of HBV will cause anaphylaxis, which normally occurs within 15 minutes after the injection. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction which involves the whole body. Chemicals are released by the immune system and often cause a person to go into shock. During anaphylactic shock, blood pressure drops and airways narrow so that they block breathing. A person who has anaphylaxis will have a weak but rapid pulse, rash, and nausea or vomiting. In order to offset anaphylaxis, an injection of epinephrine is necessary.
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