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Viral hepatitis: a sexually transmitted disease?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are often discussed in the context of herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and AIDS. Viral hepatitis, specifically hepatitis B, is also an STD often omitted from these discussions. The incidence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) is variable throughout the world. In North America, the highest incidence occurs in patients who are between the ages of 15 and 25 years. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV infection, which has an associated increased risk of chronic liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma in the carrier state. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a newly identified hepatotrophic virus that may also be sexually transmitted. There are no vaccines for the prevention of HCV infection and the majority of those who are infected become chronic carriers with chronic liver disease. Discussions focused on the prevention of STDs must include counseling for the prevention of HBV and HCV.

Author: Buzby M, Primary Care Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Source: Nurse Pract Forum 7: 10-15 (1996)

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