I don’t have a happily-ever-after story for you today. Please know this up front.
A 35-year-old man we call E.J. walked into our out-patient clinic a few years ago with
complaints of nausea and persistent episodes of tiredness. “How long has this been going on?” I asked.
“Ten months…or so…” he whispered, bracing himself up for an outburst. And yes indeed, I was shocked. “Ten months of tiredness and feeling sick? What had you been doing all this while?”
“I’d been on some treatment: my mother-in-law gave me some herbs. I don’t know what it’s called, but I’ve been drinking this preparation every day with…”
I had to stop him there. “Drinking an unnamed herbal juice every day for the past ten months at an uncertain dose, trying to treat an undiagnosed illness! What other symptoms are you experiencing, E.J.?”
“Well, sir, I used to have a good appetite but recently I noticed that I felt full too quickly after starting meals. My tummy is getting bigger and the upper right part hurts, just beneath my right lower ribs. And yes, I cough up a little blood occasionally…”
At his physical examination, we saw that he had lost so much weight, and had deep yellow eyes and a large tummy bearing prominent veins. E.J’s abdominal scan revealed an enlarged, irregular shaped liver; and blood tests showed that he had an active Hepatitis B Virus infection.
The remaining test results concluded that this young father of 4 had advanced stages of liver cancer…
Other than comfort care, nothing radical could be done for him: the malignancy had spread to his lungs and other organs. Mr. E.J. was suffering from Hepatocellular Carcinoma brought on by Hepatitis B Virus infection, and his condition was worsened by the liver-toxic herbs he was taking.
But Where Did He Get The Hepatitis B Virus From?
E.J. never had multiple sexual partners and his wife didn’t have the virus. Neither did his siblings-all five of them. He had his own hair clippers and never shared sharp objects. He wasn’t into illicit drugs. He didn’t have a history of many other Hepatitis B risk factors.
One very striking feature we noticed on him though, was a body full of tattoos!
This was the most likely entry point of the virus.
There are quite a number of diseases which damage the liver. These have the general name, “The Hepatitides”.
Many of them are caused by viruses and include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, C, D, E and G. Hepatitis can also be caused by drugs and chemicals, parasites, and infections. Among the chemical culprits, alcohol is a star villain.
Hepatitis B is also called for short, Hep B, or HBV. It is an infectious disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus.
Hep B is very common, but sadly, up to 80% of infected people are not aware that they have it! This is because many people have no symptoms during the initial infection and may never have complaints until severe liver damage or cancer develops.
Some people may however, quickly develop symptoms like tiredness, abdominal pain and dark urine, with yellow eyes and skin among other things.
Good news: Hepatitis B is preventable with a vaccine!
How Does One Catch Hep B?
Several ways! These include:
Sexual intercourse with an infected person. I know a guy who knows a guy who sleeps with three different babes every other week, no condoms, and doesn’t even know their names. Will he catch Hep B? So very likely…
Intravenous drug abuse. Many established Hep B cases have been found among drug addicts and people who share sharp instruments for whatever reason.
Hep B infection may be by contact with infected siblings, or as babies of infected moms.
Still on sharp tools, you can catch this virus from your local barber's shop, acupuncture or tattoo palace if serious sterilizing procedures aren’t done there. I recently discovered that some ladies’ hair attachments are done with needles, and there’s a needle prick injury to the scalp here once in a while. Are you thinking what I’m thinking...?
There are perhaps just a few ways to be damn hot and sexy in the west, and tattoos are one of them. Let me think aloud here for a second: as far as influence is concerned, everywhere is west!
Ah yes, tattoos: you’re at high risk for Hep B if you get a tattoo or piercing under unsterile conditions. I’ll put it another way: you’re in serious danger!
Truth is, the world over, not many tattoo parlours follow strict infection control procedures. Some of them have never seen ultrasonic cleaning and autoclave sterilization before, not to talk of actually practising them!
The process of tattooing requires repeated injections of tiny drops of ink, at the rate of thousands of tiny needle sticks per minute. This is a royal transmission route for the likes of Hep B. Or Hep C. Or HIV…or all three of ‘em together!
Vaccination. For babies, vaccination is recommended immediately after birth. Every other human should be tested for Hep B, and non-infected people should get vaccinated. I strongly recommend that you contact your doctor or a gastroenterologist/hepatologist for this.
Protected sex would be nice. Better still, I recommend the practise of fidelity. There’s no fashion like old fashion. Partners should get each other tested.
Never share sharps! Take your own hair kit to the barber’s, or insist that they sterilize their clippers.
Say no to drug abuse in any form!
You want a tattoo parlour where the artist washes hands and wears gloves; where they have a functioning autoclave; where tools come out of sterile packaging while you watch; where needles, gloves and inks are all for single-use. And if anything raises your eyebrow, ask questions. Complain! If anything makes you wary about that place, please go look elsewhere…
Now I Have Hep B! What Do I Do?
Allez contacter votre médecin: Talk to your doctor. They’ll do a few important tests to determine your actual status: how serious the infection is. Since not all infected people need immediate treatment, this will determine which action will be best for you.
A few infected people do fully recover from this infection spontaneously.
Please help raise awareness of Hepatitis B, and indeed the Hepatitides, by sharing info with other people.
Have a germ-free week!
Thanks: www.fashionstown.com, Wikipedia, www.hepb.org