Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Being Careful Is the Key to Protection from Hep B

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Being Careful Is the Key to Protection from Hep B

Article excerpt

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause damage to the liver. It is sometimes also called "hep B" or "HBV".

Two billion people worldwide have been exposed to hep B and up to 160,000 people in Australia have chronic hep B. Hepatitis B is different to HIV/AIDS or hepatitis A, C, D or E. A blood test can show if you have had hepatitis B in the past, or if you have it now.

How do you get hep B?

Hep B is in all body fluids of an infected person but it is spread through direct blood and unprotected sexual contact. You can get hep B from:

* Mother to child during pregnancy/birth;

* Unprotected intercourse

* Contaminated blood transfusions, blood products, medical or dental equipment (this is an issue in many countries but very rare in Australia);

* Sharing drug injecting equipment (including syringes, spoons, water, filters and tourniquets);

* Non-sterile cultural or traditional practices that involve blood or skin penetration;

* Non-sterile tattooing or piercing;

* Sharing toothbrushes, razors and tweezers;

* Blood-to-blood contact through open wounds;

* Needle-stick injuries (getting hep B this way is rare).

It is safe to share things like food, eating utensils, cups and plates. You cannot get hep B from hugging, kissing, sneezing, mosquitoes, crying, pets, or sharing toilets or showers.

Tips to prevent getting hep B:

* Get vaccinated. This is the best prevention;

* If you have hep B and are pregnant, talk to your doctor about vaccinations and 'HBIg' (hepatitis B immunoglobulin) for your baby at birth;

* Practise safe sex;

* Cover open wounds or cuts and clean up any blood spills with disposable gloves and bleach;

* Only have tattoos and piercings done by a professional who uses sterile equipment;

* Don't share items that may have traces of blood on them like tweezers, razors or toothbrushes;

* If you are not immunised, and you have sexual or blood contact with someone that may have hepatitis B, you should talk to your doctor or clinic about getting vaccinated and HBIg (hepatitis B immunoglobulin) as soon as possible. …

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