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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)

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