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Hepatitis B for Children

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by Hepatitis B virus, HBV. The virus is found in blood and body fluids of infected persons, and is spread by direct contact with infected blood or body fluids (including semen, saliva, and fluid from wound). This happens by sharing needles and syringes, or sexual contact. Infected women can pass the virus to their babies.

How does one know he/she is infected?

It may take 45-160 days from the time of infection for symptoms to develop. Adults are more prone to experience symptoms when infected while most children do not have symptoms.

People with acute hepatitis B infection may have these symptoms:

  • Tiredness.
  • Jaundice.
  • Itchiness.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Joint pains.

What is the natural course of the infection?

Most infected persons recover completely. A small number of acute infections may be severe and lead to fatal liver failure. Some, however, develop a chronic long term hepatitis B carrier state after recovery from acute infection.

Chronic hepatitis B carriers are at greater risk to develop complications such as:

  • Chronic hepatitis (chronic inflammation).
  • Liver cirrhosis.
  • Liver failure.
  • Liver cancer.

Is there any treatment for Hepatitis B infection?

There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B infection. Some measures to be taken are :

  • Good rest and extra fluids.
  • Low fat, bland diet.
  • Avoiding alcohol.
  • Getting advice from your doctor regarding the current medications for people with chronic illnesses.

People with chronic hepatitis may benefit from medication called interferon or lamivudine. Please consult your doctor for further details.

What can a person do to avoid being infected?

  • Hepatitis B can be prevented by:
    • Avoiding high risk behaviour eg intravenous drug use and having multiple sex partners.
    • Avoiding sharing personal or intimate equipment (eg razors, tooth brush).
    • Excluding persons who are Hepatitis B carrier as blood and organ donors.
  • Hepatitis B is also effectively prevented by Hepatitis B vaccination. In Malaysia, all newborns are immunized against HBV when there are given 3 doses of this vaccine at birth, 1 month and 6 month in Malaysian immunization programme.
  • Hepatitis B vaccination is also recommended at other ages, to certain population at risk, if they are not protected by previous immunization or previous infection, e.g.:
    • Household or sexual contacts of people with Hepatitis B infection.
    • People exposed to blood or blood products.
    • Health care workers.
    • Patients undergoing dialysis.

For the infected mother, Hepatitis B immunoglobulin must be given immediately after birth to the newborn, followed by the routine vaccination. Infected mother should inform their status to attending doctor so that immunoglobulin can be made available for their newborn.

Support group

Malaysian Liver Foundation
No 26, Block C, Jalan PJU 1A/3,
Taipan Damansara 2, Ara Damansara,
47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan
Malaysia
Tel: 603-78426101
Email : enquiries@liver.org.my
Website : www.liver.org.my

Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Chan Kwai Cheng
Reviewer : Dr. Thahira bt. Jamal Mohamed