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How did I catch hep b?
Oct 15, 2005

Dear Dr,

I went to Nigeria for 6 months. Before I left I was told that you could only catch hep b from blood transfusions, sharing needles and sexual contact. 4 days after returning to england I showed my first symptoms, was hospitalised a week later. In the hospital I kept having doctors questioning me on how I contratacted it. One doctor virtually accused me of lying about not having had any sexual contact. I dont know how I got this. I honestly did not have any sexual contact whilst abroad, did not have any injections or blood transfussions. Is it common for people to catch it in other ways? Is it common for people who dont know how they caught it to be branded as liars by the medical profession.

In the last 6 weeks of me being in nigeria we rescued a kitten. It was very playful and scratchy and I played with it a lot. Could the virus have been transmitted on its claws? During this time I had a lot of cuts on my hands from playing with the kitten. The only time I ever saw blood was when I squashed a tetse fly which exploded blood on my arm and my hand. I dont think that was my blood. Could the virus stay active in the gut of a tetse fly? There were also a lot of other blood sucking insects around.

Doctors in England dont know much about hep b. I feel really let down by the medical profession here. They are telling people that you can only catch this via needles, blood transfussions and sex which is putting people in danger especially as this disease is so easily prevented with a vaccine.

Is it possible I could have caught it in any of the ways I mentioned. If not then how did I get this? How do people catch this disease?

Thank you for your help.

Response from Dr. McGovern

I am as confused as you. Yes I would say the same thing - that the main ways of contracting hepatitis B are through injection drugs, sexual intercourse with a chronic hepatitis B carrier and rarely blood transfusions. I don't think any of the potential exposures that you mention concern me. The only other thing you should ponder is if you shared your razors or utensils with anyone else. Hepatitis B is present in blood and saliva. However transmission by saliva has never been proven.

I hope you are on your way to viral clearance.

Dr. McG



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