Transmission of the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can occur in unusual ways. According to a recent study, approximately 30% of those infected with HBV have no idea how they contracted it in the first place. The only way to prevent HBV is to get the vaccine. However, unlike other diseases which are commonly vaccinated against during childhood, most people do not get HBV vaccinations until they are older and possibly already at risk of contracting the bloodborne virus.
What is Hepatitis B?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Hepatitis B (HBV) is a liver infection caused by contact with the bloodborne Hepatitis B virus; cases can be acute, or have a long-lasting chronic effect on the person’s health. Chronic cases may lead to more serious illness such as cancer or liver failure.
More than 2000 million people alive today have been infected with HBV at some time in their lives. Of these, about 350 million suffer from chronic HBV and become carriers of the virus. 75% of the world is considered at high risk of infection, and every year there are over 4 million acute clinical cases of HBV, and about 1 million people die each year from HBV related illnesses.
How Do You Catch HBV?
While the number of cases seems high world-wide, most Americans assume their risk is relatively low due to the most common methods of transmission. Ordinarily, cases of HBV require the virus to enter the body through a puncture, wound, or mucosal membrane. Common methods of infection include unprotected sexual activity, sharing of needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment, direct contact with infected blood or body fluids, accidental needle stick or sharing items like razors or toothbrushes.
Infants can also receive the virus from their mother. The World Health Organization states that “adults infected with HBV usually acquire acute hepatitis B and recover, but 5 to 10% develop the chronic carrier state.” Contrarily, 25 to 90% of infected children become chronic carriers. About 25% of all carriers will die from cirrhosis of the liver or liver related cancer as adults.
One of the scariest and yet little known facts about HBV is that it can survive outside the body for up to 7 days, meaning that areas effected by blood or other biological fluids carry the potential risk of transmitting the virus. There are numerous well-documented cases that illustrate the need to treat all blood and body fluids with extreme caution:
According to one example, an Israeli butcher with chronic HBV transmitted the virus to three of his co-workers, who later infected their spouses. The mode of transmission was speculated to be shared butcher knives: when the infected worker cut himself, his contaminated blood or knife may have come into contact with other employees through breaks or cuts in their own skin.
In another case, a pregnant school teacher contracted HBV when an infected student sneezed, and saliva and nasal secretions came into contact with her chapped, cracked hands. Three weeks later, her child was born with the virus, prompting her to be tested.
Other unusual documented cases of HBV infection concern medical equipment and facilities, shared supplies and other forms of indirect contact with the virulent pathogen.
Hepatitis B is just one of many contagious bloodborne illnesses that Aftermath Services can help protect you against. A full scale cleanup by our professional biohazard cleanup technicians includes a complete cleaning and sanitization of the affected area, providing you and your family or business with reassurance following a biohazardous incident. For additional information, or to schedule a cleaning, call us 24/7 at 877-872-4339.