FAQs on Hepatitis

Hepatitis A

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is one type of viral hepatitis. Some people with hepatitis A infection may not have any signs and symptoms of the disease. Onset of disease is usually abrupt with fever, loss of appetite, nausea, upper abdominal discomfort and jaundice. It has an incubation period of 2 to 6 weeks. Most patients have a complete recovery but in a few cases, the liver may be severely affected.

How does Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A virus is transmitted from person to person and through food, drink, hands or items that has been contaminated with the stool of someone with hepatitis A infection.

Do I need Hepatitis A vaccine?

Hong Kong is a region with intermediate prevalence of hepatitis A. People who travel frequently to places with a high prevalence of hepatitis A and frequently eat uncooked shellfish will have a higher chance of getting infected. Those who have chronic liver disease(eg. Hepatitis B carriers)are at increased risk of having serious liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer if they get infected with Hepatitis A. Infected food handlers stand the high chance of spreading the virus to others. We recommend the abovementioned groups to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A.

How long does protection from Hepatitis A last?

Hepatitis A vaccine is highly effective in preventing hepatitis A infection. The vaccine is administered in two doses and protection against hepatitis A would last for 10 years or above.

Hepatitis B

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It can also progress into chronic infection and lead to chronic liver diseases, such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. More than 8% of the Hong Kong populations are Hepatitis B carriers and majority of them do not have any symptoms.

How does Hepatitis B spread?

In Hong Kong, Hepatitis B is mainly transmitted from infected mothers at the time of delivery and infancy period (perinatal transmission). Other possible routes of transmission include sexual contact or sharing injection instruments and daily necessities with an infected person, transfusion of infected blood or blood products, ear piercing or tattooing with contaminated instruments.

Do I need Hepatitis B vaccine?

Please consult the health care professionals for the appropriateness of Hepatitis B vaccination. Since the majority of patients do not have symptoms, individuals should have blood tests before vaccinated. Only people who have never been exposed to hepatitis B should have vaccination.

How long does protection from Hepatitis B last?

About 90 to 95% of people will gain life-long immunity to hepatitis B after a full course (3 doses) of vaccination.

What is to be done if I am a Hepatitis B carrier?

Although there is no cure for Hepatitis B, there are some drugs that may slow down the disease process of turning into cirrhosis and liver cancer. Regular blood test for liver function and ultrasound liver scan are able to determine the appropriateness of drug therapy. It is also important that chronic Hepatitis B carriers should avoid smoking, consuming alcohol and taking unknown medications as they increase their risk for cirrhosis and liver cancer. Getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A can also prevent further damage of liver.

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