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Get to know us and join us!
Welcome to Team HBV at Harvard! Through educational outreach rooted in cultural competence, we hope to eradicate hepatitis B virus (HBV) in the Greater Boston Area. Register and sign-up to volunteer today!
What Is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease of the liver and leading cause of liver cancer worldwide caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Symptoms associated with the initial HBV infection could be so mild that people including their doctors may not know they have been infected. But in some, it could result in fatigue, lost of appetite, dark urine and yellow discoloration of the eyes, lasting for several months and even death from liver failure. Those who fail to clear the infection will develop lifelong, chronic hepatitis B infection that can lead to premature death from cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, or liver cancer.
How Bad Is It?
Approximately 1 in 30 people worldwide (240 million individuals) is living with chronic hepatitis B which causes 60-80% of liver cancer cases worldwide. Without appropriate medical management, as many as 1 in 4 people chronically infected with HBV will die from liver cancer or liver failure, resulting in about 600,000 to a million deaths annually.
How Is It Transmitted?
Birth - HBV can be transmitted from a chronically infected mother to her child during the birthing process. This is one of the most common modes of transmission for Asians. Many pregnant mothers with chronic hepatitis B are unaware of their infection and end up silently passing the virus to the next generation.
Blood - HBV can be transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. This includes:
Reusing or sharing needles for tattoos, piercings, acupuncture, or injection drugs
Reusing syringes or medical devices
Sharing razors or toothbrushes contaminated by blood
Sex - HBV can be transmitted through unprotected sex with a person infected with HBV. The use of condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of infection. Vaccination remains the most effective way to protect against HBV.
Is It Treatable?
Regular physician check-ups can prevent disease progression and symptom worsening such as liver scarring. However, the best treatment is prevention. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and >95% effective in preventing HBV infection. Hepatitis B vaccination involves a series of 3 shots given over 6 months (1 month after first and 5 months after second) and can provide lifelong immunity against HBV.
What Can We Do?
1. Get Tested
2. Get Vaccinated
3. Spread the Word!
*information from Asian Liver Center at Stanford University