Hep B is a virus that can make your liver sick. Most people with hep B won’t feel unwell. Hep B can be a family illness, passed from mum onto her babies, so knowing your family history is important.
Hep B is transmitted by:
- blood-to-blood contact
- sexual contact through semen and vaginal fluids
- when a mother who is living with chronic hep B transmits the virus to her baby, usually at birth – this is called vertical transmission.
Hep B is present in other body fluids, such as breast milk and saliva; however, not in high enough quantities to cause transmission.
A blood test is the only way to know if you have hep B. This simple blood test can show if you have:
- had acute hep B in the past
- been vaccinated previously
- a current infection.
These blood results will also tell your doctor a great deal about what is going on inside your liver – importantly, what phase the virus is in, what care is needed, and if treatment is needed.
The blood test for hep B is not always included in a 715 Adult Health Check, you might need to ask your doctor for it.
The simplest and best prevention against hep B is vaccination.
Hep B vaccinations for adults
- The standard adult immunisation for hep B is three injections given over six months (at zero, one, and six months).
Hep B vaccinations for babies and children
- Babies and children have four doses of the vaccine over six months. The first dose is generally given in the hospital after birth, and then at two, four and six months
- The hep B vaccination is 95% effective
- Ask at your local clinic if you are vaccinated or how to get your jabs done.
Being diagnosed with chronic hep B can be devastating and shocking; however, there is lots of information and support available.
The most important message is that chronic hep B is a very manageable chronic condition, like diabetes. With some positive lifestyle changes, people living with chronic hep B will live a long and healthy life.
Having a regular six-monthly check-up is the most important thing you can do if you are living with chronic hep B. These check-ups will include a blood test and an ultrasound of your liver. The blood test will show what is going on inside your liver, what care, management and treatment may be needed. The ultrasound will allow liver cancer to be picked up early.
Some simple lifestyle changes that will positively impact your health and liver include:
- reducing or avoiding alcohol – alcohol can increase the chances of developing fibrosis which can then lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer
- eating a well-balanced diet
- getting regular exercise
- trying to maintain a healthy body weight
- reducing stress and getting support
- resting when needed.
Once you are living strong with hep B, you can help to educate and empower your family and community to be vaccinated and tested for hep B.
The B Stronger artwork (pictured right) was commissioned as part of the B Stronger hepatitis B project and signifies the many individuals, communities and health services working together to target hep B.
Artist Joe Malone, who runs Jagalingu Aboriginal Creations, has provided a detailed description of the many elements that make up the art piece:
“Hep B is a health condition that requires a united approach. It involves individuals, communities, and health services working together and this art piece captures these elements.
The small circles, lines and crosshatching represent the song lines and story lines urging communities to attend their local Aboriginal Medical Service to yarn about, be tested, be vaccinated, or have a checkup for hep B. The footprints represent the travelling to and from these health services.
The larger circles represent the Aboriginal Medical Services where people have journeyed to and from. These circles include the symbols for male and female to represent both the community members and the staff working in these services. A liver has also been included in the centre of each circle as hep B impacts our liver health. The Hepatitis Queensland staff are the crosshatched symbols sitting in these circles yarning with community and educating them about hep B and liver health.
At the centre of the painting is the Hep B Family Tree which is a visual tool used for hep B education, with the branches reminding us to:
- B Tested
- B Vaccinated
- B Stronger
Sitting around the Hep B Family Tree are figures to represent the individuals in the community who may be at more risk of hep B. These are young people aged 15-25 years, men and women 50 years and over, as well as mum’s with hep B and their bubs.”
Joe Malone is a descendant of the Kangoulu and Jagalingu people from the Central Western region of Queensland. Joe is the owner of Jagalingu Aboriginal Creations which was established in 1992 creating and producing high quality Aboriginal artefacts, paintings, and other products.
Joe had the great fortune of being mentored in his craft by Joe Skeen Senior, a KuKu – Thaypan elder, and a third-generation Aboriginal artefact maker in 1988. The skills that were instilled in Joe included creating and painting traditional Aboriginal artefacts, along with a strong work ethic and a sense of the importance of why Aboriginal people need to continue their own cultural. This mentorship and inspiration continues to this day.