Q: Can one get chronic hepatitis B from chopsticks/eating utensils?
A: The answer is no. Casual contact is not a risk factor for transmission of the virus. Hepatitis B can be found in saliva but provided the family has been immunized for hepatitis B this is not a concern. Patients with hepatitis B employed in food preparation also cannot transmit the virus.
Q: Is the immunization for hepatitis B effective?
A: Hepatitis B immunization in healthy people has about a 97% success rate after three injections. After only one injection the success rate is about 50% and after two injections 80%. So it is very important to make sure that if you start immunization that all three injections are given. For people living with people with hepatitis B it is also useful to have a blood test to confirm that you have immunity to the virus after the series of 3 injections.
Q: If I have hepatitis B, how come I feel so well?
A: The liver is a very capable organ and can carry out all of its functions even with major damage. It is usually only when there is less than 5% of functioning liver cells that patients start to show signs of liver failure. Up until that time patients feel completely well. The opportunity to slow down the liver damage would have been more effective if detected earlier. Therefore it is important that you see your family doctor to get tested for the virus even if you feel well. Most people have no problems with doing their work or daily activities if they have the infection.
Q: Can the drugs result in a cure for hepatitis B?
A: There are no effective medications to eliminate the disease but there are drugs that can control the infection. Drugs can also prevent the development of liver cancer. Despite this many people who have chronic hepatitis B do not die of a liver related disease. Therefore, even if you have hepatitis B, you may never need drug therapy.
Q: What kind of diet or what are some other things I can do to prevent worsening of liver disease?
A: Many of my hepatitis B patients want to be proactive and prevent worsening of liver disease. It is important to eat a well- balanced diet. Avoiding alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent worsening of liver disease. Some over the counter medications or herbal medications can be harmful to the liver and it is important to discuss this with you family doctor or liver specialist before taking any new medication or supplement.
Content by Dr. Eric Lam, Gastroenterologist