Notes on Hepatitis for awareness raising

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver (swelling and redness due to damage of the liver)

Types of Hepatitis?

  1. Infectious: can be transferred from one person to another (caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites)
  2. non-infectious caused by alcohol and certain drugs.

Facts about Hepatitis B

  • Infectious hepatitis, namely those caused by viruses are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
  • Hepatitis A and E are caused by drinking or eating contaminated foods.
  • Hepatitis B and C cause chronic infections and it is the most common form of viral hepatitis globally.
  • 296 million people are infected with hepatitis B virus globally.
  • Africa and Asia have the highest burden of hepatitis B infection.
  • 81 million people in Africa have chronic hepatitis B.
  • 820,000 people die each year from Hepatitis b complications.
  • About 1 million Sierra Leoneans are infected with the Hepatitis B virus and it is the most common form of viral hepatitis available in Sierra Leone.
  • Hepatitis B infection is not curable but manageable and preventable.

Stages of Hepatitis B Infection

Acute: having the virus for less than 6 months

Chronic: having the virus for more than 6 months

An infected person within the acute stage can clear the virus and recover completely.

Note: less than 4% of people with strong immune systems develop chronic infection.

Mode of transmission of hepatitis B virus

  1. Mother to child during delivery
  2. Sharing of sharp objects like tattooing
  3. Sharing of toothbrush
  4. Blood transfusion
  5. Sexually

Note: Hepatitis B is not transmitted through kissing, hugging, shaking hands, playing sports, or eating food with an infected person. You will not get hepatitis B if an infected person prepares food.

However, you will get hepatitis B when you come in contact with infected blood and body fluids like semen or vaginal fluids. Hepatitis B virus cannot be transmitted by breast milk, tears, saliva or sweat. Let us break that stigma by spreading the correct information. Do not stigmatize nor discriminate against those infected with hepatitis B virus.

People at risk of getting infected.

  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • Commercial sex workers
  • Kush or drug users
  • People undergoing tattooing.
  • Health care professionals
  • Homosexuals
  • Babies born from infected mothers.
  • HIV patients
  • People with sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea etc.

Common Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Tiredness
  • Pain at the right upper side of abdomen
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Light colored stool


  • Chronic liver disease
  • Liver cirrhosis (scar tissue formation on liver)
  • Liver cancer

Prevention of hepatitis B

  • The best way to prevent hepatitis b is by getting vaccinated with a COMPLETE 3 dose series 0, 1 and 6 months.
  • Taking the full shot of the vaccines will provide lifelong protection.
  • Taking one or 2 shots will not provide complete protection.
  • If you have taken 1 or 2 shots before you can still complete your series without repeating all the series again
  • People at risk of getting the infection must be vaccinated.
  • Babies born from infected mothers MUST be vaccinated within 12-24 hrs.

Note: 90% of babies born from infected mothers will develop chronic hepatitis.


Other ways to protect yourself are.

  • To avoid multiple sexual partners
  • The use of condoms (protection not too guaranteed due to condom breaks)
  • Avoid sharing toothbrush with someone.
  • Accept blood only from screened blood donors.
  • Have sexual contact with someone that has been vaccinated.


Hepatitis B virus can only be detected at the laboratory by checking the presence of virus, checking if liver works fine, checking for liver damage and how much of the virus is in blood.


  • People who have low viral load and have no signs of liver damage do not need treatment.
  • People who need lifelong treatment are those who have developed complications of the disease.
  • Treatment is needed for people above 30 years who have high viral load and signs of liver damage.

Consult your doctor the moment you are diagnosed with hepatitis B to prevent complications. Detecting the disease early can save your life. Monitoring is key when you are infected with the virus.