The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone gets tested for hepatitis B at least once. The infection, however, is treatable with antivirals and preventable with a highly effective childhood vaccine.
Many Americans still have chronic hepatitis B, which could increase the risk of liver damage and cancer. According to the CDC, two-thirds of these Americans may be unaware they have the disease.
More about Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B belongs to several unrelated viruses that cause hepatitis (liver inflammation) in humans. It expands through blood and other bodily fluids, which can be carried on through sex, having shared contaminated needles and syringes, or getting passed from mother to child in the womb.
Many people infected with hepatitis B will not develop symptoms, but those who do will experience fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. The infection is usually brief, but the virus can persist in the body. Chronic hepatitis B, if left untreated, can cause liver damage and increase the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The guidelines are also meant to promote the World Health Organization’s ambitious goal of effectively removing viral hepatitis globally by 2030. According to the WHO, 296 million people worldwide were residing with chronic hepatitis B in 2019, with 1.5 million people becoming infected yearly.
These infections are estimated to kill over 800,000 people each year, most of whom die from liver cancer and cirrhosis. Chronic hepatitis B has no cure, but antiviral treatments can keep it under control. Newborns infected with the virus can also be treated to help prevent chronic infection.
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