Hepatitis B
by: Jocelyn Newark

Hepatitis B is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver and in extreme cases causes cancer of the liver.The disease is caused by a large enveloped virus, Hepatitis B virus or HBV, and contains three different parts while consisting of a genome of double stranded DNA. Transmission of HBV is primarily passed through blood and bodily fluids. Hepatitis B is a deadly disease, which is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and affects millions of people a year. Symptoms are highly variable and may not even be seen after several month of a patient carrying the virus. It is also hard to clinically determine what type of Hepatitis one may have. The HBV vaccine has now been brought worldwide and is part of the regular childhood immunizations. There are no treatments once a patient contracts HBV but there are medications available. The biggest prevention to stop HBV from spreading is getting vaccinated, using sterile needles, and using barrier type contraception.

I found this topic very interesting because I have heard of Hepatitis B a lot and never really understood how it affected people. I was one of the millions of children who got vaccinated when this 'anti-cancer' vaccine first came out. I feel that it is important for people to be educated about these types of fatal diseases and how much it affects people all over the world. When information like this is present to people they find ways to prevent themselves against the disease to stop this widespread illness. I found it very interesting to compare the different Hepatitis virus since some viruses are more fatal than others and also contain different structures.



Figure 1 is Hepatitis B virus which causes Hepatitis B. The virus is composed of three main parts:
  1. Dane Particle which is the complete HBV and is very infectious and capable of replicating.
  2. Small Spherical particles are enveloped particles that contain Hepatitis B surface antigens.
  3. Filamentous particles are tubular enveloped particles.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is one of several different varieties of the disease Hepatitis, which is a serious infection that causes inflammation of the liver by the Hepatitis B Virus, HBV, which can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer. The virus attacks straight to the liver and it may be a lifelong infection. Compared to the other Hepatitis virus, the Hepatitis virus is much larger and consists of an outer lipid envelope and its genome is double-stranded DNA. (Viral, 2008) It can be unusual in that instead of its DNA replicating directly, it passes through an intermediate RNA stage that resembles a retrovirus. (virus with a single strand of RNA)

Transmission of Hepatitis B
Transmission of the Hepatitis B Virus is primarily passed through blood and bodily fluids. The most common types of transmission is between homosexual males and heterosexuals with many partners since HBV is easily passed through unprotected sexual contact. HBV is also highly common in intravenous drug users since most share unsterilized needles. Hepatitis B is also commonly passed to children from mothers during childbirth if the mother carries HBV. HBV has also been reported of passing to health care workers from patients when the proper safety requirements have not been met. (Tortora, 2006) When someone contracts Hepatitis B it is placed under either an acute case or chronic case depending on the amount of time a patient has HBV before it is noticed or taken care of. If it is placed in a chronic case the patient is usually with the disease for a lifetime, whereas an acute case approximately 90 percent of patients recover. Infants have the highest rate of contracting HBV, and the chances of contracting decreases with age. One can also receive HBV by living with someone who has a chronic infection of HBV.

Numbers regarding Hepatitis B (Hepatitis B, 2009)
  • An estimated 2 billion people worldwide have been infected HBV at some time in their lives.
  • 350 million of these people have a chronic infection which puts them at risk of death from liver cancer.
  • Liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver cause about 1 million deaths per year worldwidecalculator50.gif
  • An estimated 1.25 million Americans have chronic Hepatitis B
  • An estimated 5000 Americans die every year from Hepatitis B
  • Most common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B
The Hepatitis B virus is commonly referred to as the "Silent Disease" since many symptoms are not shown physically even if the patient is caring the virus for several months. It is still able to infect others without seeing any symptoms on ones self. It is also hard to determine what type of Hepatitis the patient may carry. Symptoms are highly variable and HBV infection can't be determined from other Hepatitis infections by clinical appearance. (Mortada, 2007) The patient may experience mild symptoms such as fever, nausea and joint pain.

Prevention and Treatment
Prevention of Hepatitis B is made with usage of disposable needles and barrier type contraception being the biggest preventer. There is now vaccinations against HBV that has become widespread and is part of childhood immunizations. This vaccine has been said to be the first 'anti-cancer' vaccine since it indirectly fights off liver cancer. (Causes, 2003) A patient cannot receive Hepatitis B from the HBV vaccine. There are no specific treatments once a patient contracts Hepatitis B, however some medicines are available.

Literature Cited:
"Cause for a Cure." Hepatitis B Foundation 2003 Web.1 May 2009. <http://www.hepb.org/hepb/transmission.htm>

Hepatitis B." Chiron 2009 Web.<www.chiron.com/images/library/hbv.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.chiron.com/public/library/diseases/hbv/hbv_overview.jsp

Mortada, Mohmad. "Hepatits B Causes and Symptoms." Medicine.Net Web. 2007. <http://www.medicinenet.com/hepatitis_b/article.htm>.

Tortora, Gerard J., Berdell R. Funke, and Christine L. Case. Microbiology An Introduction with CDROM. Boston: Benjamin-Cumm
ings Company, 2006.

"Viral Hepatitis." Department of Health and Human Services 2008 Web.<http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm>.