Hepatitis B Information
Hepatitis B is a serious disease of the liver and is caused by HBV.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended as a routine childhood vaccination by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Public Health Service and the Committee of Infectious Diseases of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a serious disease of the liver and is caused by HBV. HBV infects and damages the liver. The disease can lead to severe illness, lifelong HBV infection, cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death. Hepatitis B is the most common cause of liver cancer worldwide. HBV is found in the blood and body fluids of people who have hepatitis B. You can get hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. Contact with even small amounts of infected blood can cause infection. A baby can get HBV from an infected mother during birth. You are at risk for HBV if you:
Share needles for injecting drugs
Have sex with an infected person
Live in the same household with someone who has lifelong HBV infection
Have a job that exposes you to human blood
What happens to babies who become hepatitis B carriers?
Of babies who get HBV from their infected mothers at birth, as many as 90% may become carriers and have lifelong HBV infection. At first, babies may not look or feel sick, but as they grow up, they may have serious damage. Approximately one of four who become HBV carriers dies of disease, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
Why does my baby need a shot now?
Hepatitis B vaccination is an investment in your baby's future. All babies should receive hepatitis B vaccine to be protected from HBV, a virus that they can come in contact with at any time in life. Hepatitis vaccination is recommended for all infants because of the high risk that children younger than 5 years of age, if infected, will become HBV carriers. This vaccination also protects your children from HBV if they are exposed to infection as teenagers or adults. Although HBV infection has no cure, it can be prevented with hepatitis B vaccine.
Health experts believe that vaccinating only adults who are at risk for infection cannot prevent HBV infection. Babies who are vaccinated against HBV are no longer at risk of becoming infected. They are protected from the serious problems caused by HBV and liver cancer, liver damage, and the danger of infecting other people. As more and more people become immune to HBV infection through hepatitis B vaccination, the number of new infections will decrease.
Hepatitis B vaccine is given in a series of three shots. If a mother does not have HBV in her blood, her baby may get the first shot of hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the hospital. Or the baby may get the first shot at the doctor's office or clinic.
The next shots will be given with the other baby shots. If a mother has HBV in her blood when they baby is born, her baby will need the first of hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours after birth. Hepatitis B immune globulin, called HBIG, is also given. The baby will get the next two shots of hepatitis B vaccine as recommended by the doctor or clinic.
Here are some staggering and realistic facts that should urge you to get your baby vaccinated with the Hepatitis B vaccine:
More than 240,000 people become infected with HBV each year in the United States
More than one million people carry HBV in their blood
Approximately 5,000 people die of HBV-related cirrhosis of the liver
Approximately 1,500 people die of HBV-related liver cancer.