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Hepatitis B Virus®

Geographical distribution

Hepatitis B prevalence is highest in the WHO Western Pacific Region and the WHO African Region, where 6.2% and 6.1% respectively of the adult population is infected. In the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, the WHO South-East Asia Region and the WHO European Region, an estimated 3.3%, 2.0% and 1.6%% of the general population is infected, respectively. 0.7% of the population of the WHO Region of the Americas is infected.

Transmission

The hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine. The incubation period of the hepatitis B virus is 75 days on average, but can vary from 30 to 180 days. The virus may be detected within 30 to 60 days after infection and can persist and develop into chronic hepatitis B.

In highly endemic areas, hepatitis B is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth (perinatal transmission), or through horizontal transmission (exposure to infected blood), especially from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first 5 years of life. The

Symptoms

Most people do not experience any symptoms during the acute infection phase. However, some people have acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. A small subset of persons with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death.

In some people, the hepatitis B virus can also cause a chronic liver infection that can later develop into cirrhosis (a scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

development of chronic infection is very common in infants infected from their mothers or before the age of 5 years.

Hepatitis B is also spread by per-cutaneous or mucosal exposure to infected blood and various body fluids, as well as through saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. Sexual transmission of hepatitis B may occur, particularly in vaccinated men who have sex with men and heterosexual persons with multiple sex partners or contact with sex workers. Infection in adulthood leads to chronic hepatitis in less than 5% of cases. Transmission of the virus may also occur through the reuse of needles and syringes either in health-care settings or among persons who inject drugs. In addition, infection can occur during medical, surgical and dental procedures, through tattooing, or through the use of razors and similar objects that are contaminated with infected blood.

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