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Information on Iowa's reportable diseases and conditions.

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An online guide for public health officials and health care providers to surveillance, investigation, and reporting.

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An online resource for foodborne outbreak management.

Hepatitis B

Symptoms

It is important to know that many people who are infected with hepatitis B may never know it. Many infected people have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, if symptoms do present, they may show up in many different phases.

Prodromal phase. The time period from the initial onset of symptoms up to the onset of jaundice. Symptoms commonly appear between two to three months after infection. This phase of the disease usually lasts from 3 to 10 days and symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Skin rashes

Icteric Phase. Follows the prodromal phase, usually lasts one to three weeks, and is characterized by:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Tea-colored urine
  • Light or gray stools
  • Tenderness of the liver
  • Enlarged liver and spleen

Recovery Period. During the recovery period, depression and fatigue may last for weeks or months, while other symptoms usually disappear. After recovery, about 10 percent of adults will become lifelong carriers of the virus. Between 30 to 50 percent of children ages one to five years old who become infected with hepatitis B will become carriers. This means that they will probably never get rid of the virus and are still capable of spreading it even without symptoms.

Fulminant Hepatitis. About 1 to 2 percent of infected people will progress to fulminant hepatitis. This final phase of disease may lead to death of the patient and is characterized by:

  • Severe symptoms listed above
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis)
  • Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)

Statistics

Hepatitis B (acute and chronic)

Hepatitis B is caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.

Hepatitis B can be either acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the virus. Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the virus remains in a person’s body. Chronic hepatitis B is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems and even death.

A total of 12 cases or 0.4 cases for every 100,000 persons of acute hepatitis B were reported to CADE in 2012. Sixty-seven percent of the cases were males. Nationally, acute hepatitis B infections occur 1.8 times more often in men than in women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there were 43,000 new hepatitis B infections in the U.S. in 2007, and between 800,000 and 1.4 million people living with chronic hepatitis B disease in the US.

There were 227 confirmed or probable chronic hepatitis B cases reported in 2012 in Iowa. Fifty-five percent of the cases were females and 45 were males.

For more detailed information and statistics on all notifiable diseases, please see our current annual report.

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