Hepatitis B Singapore

Hepatitis B in Singapore: Hepatitis B is a virus that causes liver damage. It’s acquired through needles and sex. A vaccine and treatment are both available, though there’s no cure.

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Definition/Causes/Risk Factors

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver. The disease is caused by a virus, called the hepatitis B virus. This virus enters the body through contact with infected bodily fluids. That puts you at risk if you share needles, receive a blood transfusion from an unsafe source (in Singapore, hepatitis B screening is used on blood, so transfusions are safe; but those in other countries may not be safe), or have unprotected sex. Babies can also get it from their mothers, and family members can pass it to each other if they share personal items like toothbrushes.

The hepatitis B virus enters liver cells (which are called hepatocytes) and hijacks them. The virus causes the cell to divert its own resources to producing more viruses. Eventually, the cell releases thousands of new viruses into the bloodstream, where they can infect other liver cells.

The immune system of the infected person responds by attacking the liver cells that are infected with the virus. The immune cells are attempting to kill all of the infected liver cells before they can produce more viruses, to stop the infection in its tracks. (Because new viruses can only be made inside of a host cell, killing the infected host cells will get rid of the virus.) While this immune system activity does effectively get rid of the infection in many people, it also causes significant damage to the liver. Much of the liver damage that occurs in people with hepatitis B is actually caused by the immune system’s response to the virus, rather than by the virus itself.