Amitabh Bachchan Living with Hepatitis B: What are the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of the Viral Disease?
Amitabh Bachchan on living with hepatitis (Photo Credits: File Image)

Legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan recently spoke at the launch of National Action Plan about his Hepatitis B diagnosis, saying he’s been living a healthy and productive life despite the disease. Back in 2015, he made a startling revelation that he’s surviving only on 25 percent of his liver, after he lost rest of its function to Hepatitis. Bachchan is the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for the disease in South-East Asia. The 76-year-old legend spoke about combatting viral hepatitis in India, focusing his speech on the stigma women suffering from the hepatitis B face in the country.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that affects the liver. It is spread through contact with infected blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 257 million people are living with hepatitis B virus infection. And in 2015 alone, 887 000 people died of the disease due to complications arising from the infection.

How is Hepatitis B Transmitted?

The virus can survive outside the human body for a week and can enter it and cause an infection if the person is not vaccinated. The incubation period of the virus is 75 days on average, but it can be as less as 30 or as much as 180 days. A Complete Guide To Keeping Your Child Safe From 5 Types of Hepatitis.

The Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. It’s transmitted from the mother to the child at birth or through exposure to infected blood.

The virus is also spread through exposure of the skin or mucosa to infected blood, saliva, menstrual blood, and vaginal and seminal fluids.

Hepatitis is also transmitted sexually through unprotected sex. Turmeric Supplement Causes Autoimmune Hepatitis in a Woman? Are Curcumin Capsules Safe?

According to WHO, infection in adults leads to chronic hepatitis only in less than five percent of cases. The virus can also be transmitted in a health-care environment, especially through medical equipment like razors, needles and infected blood.

What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B can be asymptomatic and show no signs if the infection is in its acute phase. But since it affects the liver, classic signs of liver problems can be seen in some. These include:

  • Yellow skin
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  •  Stomach ache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Clay-coloured stools
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

Hepatitis B virus can cause scarring or cirrhosis of the liver in some patients. In rare cases, some people can develop liver failure, which can prove fatal.

Who is at Risk?

The risk of the disease depends on the age at which the person gets infected — younger the age of infection, greater the chances of chronic infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the ones who are most at risk:

  •  Infants of infected mothers
  • Sex partners of infected men
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Drug users
  • Household contacts of infected people
  • Healthcare workers
  • Haemodialysis patients

How is Hepatitis B Treated?

While there are no specific treatment methods for acute Hepatitis B, the mainstay of its treatment is the management of symptoms, rest, nutrition and replacement of fluids.

Chronic cases of Hepatitis can be treated with medicines like antiviral agents, which can slow down the rate of liver damage and reduce the risk of liver cancer.

The recommended treatment for hepatitis according to WHO is tenofovir or entecavir because they don’t lead to drug resistance and have few side effects.

But in some people, the treatment doesn’t work in some people and merely suppresses the replication of the virus. Such patients should take medicines for life.