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Hepatitis B
Sep 19, 1996

I can see the list of questions is already one mile long, but here is another one: How aware people are of the risk of Hepatitis B compared to AIDS? Just recently I heard that Hepatitis B, a mortal disease, can be transmited 100 times easier than HIV. The problem with Hepatitis B is that it can be transmited by ways that do not transmit HIV like kissing, sweat, drinking from the same glass as the infected person or public toilet seats. Is there a reason to panic? I heard more people die with hepatitis B in one day than people with AIDS in one year! Is any of this true? Thanks for your time! Keep up the good work!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question regarding Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. There are multiple causes of hepatitis, some infectious (like Hepatitis B), and some non-infectious (like through alcoholism).

As for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), it is true that it is 100 times more infectious than HIV. It is transmitted the exact same way as HIV, and it would be extremely unlikely to be transmitted through any form of casual contact, including through toilet seats etc. So the way to look at HBV is that it is transmitted the exact same way as HIV, but it is much more infectious.

On a bright note, there is now a very effective vaccine against HBV. It is a safe vaccine that involves taking 3 shots over a 6 month period of time. So although Hepatitis B is a deadly disease, it is also a very preventable one. And preventive measures for HIV (like condoms, not sharing needles etc.) also apply in terms of HBV prevention.

Sadly, most people are not aware of Hepatitis B, or the other Hepatitis viruses (there is also a Hepatitis A, C, D, and E). The only forms of Hepatitis where there are vaccines available are Hepatitis A and B. Persons most at risk for Hepatitis B (Gay men, IV drug users, and sex partners of persons with Hepatitis B) often do not get vaccinated, and often become infected. However, I must strongly emphasize that between safer sex practices, not sharing needles, and HBV vaccination, the chances of becoming infected with HBV these days can be reduced significantly.

Because HBV is caused by a virus, it is not curable although there are some treatments available for HBV infection. Hepatitis B is potentially fatal, and can also lead to cirossis of the liver and liver cancer, two very serious consequences as a result of HBV infection.

On a side note, Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through food and giving oral/anal sex. Hepatitis E is most often found in developing countries. Hepatitis C is most often transmitted through blood to blood contact (especially through sharing needles), although sexual transmisssion of Hepatitis C is also possible, but to a lesser extent than Hepatitis B. Hepatitis D is transmitted the same way as Hepatitis B. If a person has Hepatitis D by itself, it is harmless. But if a person has Hepatitis B and Hepatitis D, this is a deadly combination.

If you have any further questions about any of the infectious forms of Hepatitis (A, B, C, D, E), please e-mail me at "nvhotline@aol.com" or call me at 1-800-842-AIDS.



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