Gone are those days when my knowledge of Hepatitis B was limited to whatever I read in textbooks or on the web. I encountered a real-life victim of the virus about 2 years ago and this year, someone close to me lost his life to the virus. I did not know he had the virus until some days before his death when he was rushed to the emergency section of a famous government hospital around here.
Apparently, he was diagnosed with the virus a few years back and was recommended some drugs to keep the viral load within a level that will sustain his health. Unfortunately, he lost confidence in conventional drugs and bowed to the pressure of the locals by resorting to herbs and multi-level marketing supplements. If you are a Nigerian, you'd probably already know some multi-level marketing supplements that are usually pushed around.
That's a known person down to the virus. I genuinely hope and pray there will not be another case.
The other person remains alive and seemingly healthy. I actually thought the virus has become a thing of the past until recently. The husband of the victim who happens to be my close friend informed me about their visit to the hospital to check the viral load level in her system. She has been on a recommended drug for the past six months or so. Unfortunately, they come back without knowing the viral load level as only the presence of the virus was confirmed.
According to the diagnostic center, checking the viral load level will require a highly sophisticated and accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and this will cost quite a sum of money in the region of 30 USD, which is currently beyond what my friend can afford. In other words, they will just continue living their lives and hope for the best until they can afford the test fee.
How contagious is this virus?
This is a question that has been ringing in my head since I got to know that the wife has the virus. Theirs is a family of five, including their 3 kids. About a year ago, their relative who may or may not know that the wife is harboring a Hepatitis B virus brought two of their own kids to them for schooling and upbringing.
During the early days when the condition was newly diagnosed, the husband and the kids were diagnosed to be free of the virus and were swiftly recommended a Hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine, according to health officials, is in 3 doses, to be taken a certain number of months apart. I went with him for the first dose of the vaccine along with his kids.
The events that followed after the first vaccine dose dissuaded him from taking the rest of the doses. He and the kids had a tough time walking due to the effects of the injection, until some days after. This made him swore not to go back to finish the doses. All my efforts to persuade him fell on deaf ears. Since then, I have been quite wary of my level of physical interaction with him and his kids.
According to my investigation, the virus can be contracted in the following ways:
- Through unprotected sexual contact
- Sharing needles or other drug injection equipment
- Mother-to-child transmission
- Occupational exposure such as contact with infected blood or bodily fluids.
- Sharing personal items
Looking at these routes through which the virus can be contracted, would it be paranoia on my side if I assume that the entire family may be nursing the virus? The last born of the family, who's currently about a year old, was given birth to after the diagnosis.
According to research investigations, the chances of mother-to-child transmission of the Hepatitis B virus vary depending on several factors, including the mother's viral load, the timing of the infection in relation to childbirth, and whether the baby receives post-exposure prophylaxis (which is a no, in this case).
Without any intervention, the risk of a mother passing HBV to her baby during childbirth is approximately 20-90% for mothers who are hepatitis B positive, depending on the viral load.
Of course, there are measures that could have been taken to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission. According to findings, the most effective method is to vaccinate the baby against the virus as soon as possible after birth, ideally within 12 hours. In addition, such babies also receive hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) within 12 hours of birth to provide immediate protection against the virus.
The measures could have brought the chances of mother-to-child transmission to as low as 1%. But unfortunately, none of these measures were taken by the family when their last kid was given birth to.
Seeing that the family have not been taking any precaution to prevent the transmission of the virus from my own point of view, would it be extreme to say that the chances of the entire household carrying the virus are high?
What do you think?