4.4.3 Treatment, prevention and control of hepatitis B
You should be aware that there is no curative treatment for acute hepatitis B disease. Advise patients or the parents of affected children to try to keep eating and drinking; replacement of fluids lost through vomiting or diarrhoea is essential, and giving ORS is recommended if dehydration is a concern. In chronic hepatitis B infection, the disease can sometimes be halted with medication, but the drugs cost thousands of dollars and are rarely available in developing countries.
The pentavalent vaccine and its administration is described in the Immunization Module.
Prevention of hepatitis B disease is by vaccination, which is 95% effective. All infants should get three or four doses of hepatitis B vaccine during the first year of life, as part of routine vaccination schedules. In Ethiopia, it is usually given in the pentavalent vaccine, which protects against HBV and four bacterial diseases. Your role is to educate your community about how hepatitis B is transmitted and how transmission can be avoided, and you will need to give the pentavalent vaccine to infants.
Do you know another viral disease which has the same modes of transmission as hepatitis B? What health education messages can you give to people to protect themselves from both diseases?
HIV has the same modes of transmission as HBV. The advice on protection from acquiring both these viruses is to avoid contact with another person’s blood or body fluids, particularly during sexual intercourse.
Ways to prevent transmission of HIV are described in detail in Study Session 26 of this Module; they also apply to prevention of HBV transmission.
In the rest of Part 1 of this Communicable Diseases Module (Study Sessions 5–12), you will be learning about a disease that cannot (at the present time) be prevented by vaccination, which is not caused by either bacteria or viruses. It is the vector-borne disease malaria, caused by a protozoan and transmitted by mosquitoes.