Recent studies of Olympic wrestlers show that the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) may be contracted through sweat.

HBV is a blood-borne virus that affects primarily the liver and has few or no symptoms immediately after infection, but can be very dangerous.

It can cause cirrhosis, chronic active hepatitis, and liver cancer.

The virus is a global issue and gay men are said to be particularly at risk being approximately 10 times more likely to carry the diseases.

In the UK there are an estimated 180,000 chronically infected individuals and each year about 7,700 new cases develop, more than the estimated 7,000 new cases of HIV.

The virus develops slowly and diagnosis often follows years of unknowingly carrying the virus during which time the liver of the victim could be permanently damaged.

50% of infections are spread through sexual intercourse but the virus can survive for up to a week in a drop of blood on a razor so the potential for infection through intravenous drug use is also prevalent.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a high percentage of Olympic wrestlers tested positive for the virus in their blood stream while another 11% also had particles of the virus present in their sweat, which closely matched the levels in the blood stream.

Although some researchers insist that the disease can only be transferred by blood or during intercourse, Selda Berekeket-Yucel, Ph.D who conducted this study, says that precautions should be made to limit the risks of infections.

“The results proposed that other than bleeding wounds and mucous membranes, sweating could be another way of transmitting HBV infections in contact sports,” Bereket-Yucel concluded.

“The HBV test should be done and each wrestler should be vaccinated at the beginning of his career.”

Most sporting bodies have ruled that HIV testing should be mandatory for all contact sport competitors, Bereket-Yucel points out, but no such recommendations have been made for HBV, despite the fact that HBV is much more easily transmissible because far higher levels of the virus are found in the blood.

Common symptoms of HBV include abdominal pain, fatigue, fever, jaundice, and elevated liver enzymes, but there is a vaccine.

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