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Hepatitis B is caused by a virus called the hepatitis B virus (HBV for short). When you first get HBV it is called acute — which is a short-term infection that usually lasts for 6 months or less. There can be many symptoms of acute HBV such as yellowing of the skin and eyes, feeling very tired, stomach aches, coca-cola colored pee and clay colored stools. But it is important to know that many people, especially children, may never have any symptoms.
When you have hepatitis B, you can get a brief or short-lived infection, called “acute” hepatitis B, or you can develop a longterm infection called “chronic” infection. Whether or not you develop chronic hepatitis B depends on your age and your health.
The hepatitis A virus (HAV for short) lives in feces. The main way you can get hepatitis A is by getting hepatitis A-infected feces into your mouth. Other ways you can get it are by eating raw or under-cooked shellfish, having anal-oral sex (rimming), and from drinking contaminated water that has raw sewage in it.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B (HBV for short) is a virus that lives in human blood and body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, etc.). HBV makes more copies of itself by infecting the liver. If you are infected with chronic hepatitis B over a long period of time, HBV may damage the liver to the point that it cannot perform the important jobs that it must do to keep you healthy.
If 100 Infants Were Infected with HBV
Only 10 of the 100 newborns born to mothers infected with HBVwould develop a short-lived or acute infection. Their immune systems would be able to fight off and clear the infection within a few weeks. About 90 out of the 100 newborns would not be able to clear the virus from their bodies, and they would develop a serious, potentially life-long HBV infection (Chronic HBV).
If 100 Adults Were Infected with HBV
About 94 out of 100 adults exposed to HBV would develop a short-lived or acute infection. Their immune systems would mount a strong response and within a few weeks, fight off the HBV infection. About 6 out of the 100 adults would not be able to clear the virus from their bodies and they would develop a serious, long-term (chronic) infection.
The liver is the largest organ in your body. It is reddish-brown and is about the size of a football. The really amazing thing about the liver is that if someone took away half of the liver – it would grow back in a few weeks!
Whom Should I Tell?
Telling people that you have hepatitis B (HBV for short) is not easy! What makes it even harder is that many people have never heard of HBV or they have heard things about HBV that are not true. Some people might even treat you in a different way when they find out you have HBV.