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World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Logo - July 28, 2015Worldwide, approximately 240 million people have chronic Hepatitis B. For World Hepatitis Day, July 28, learn how the Hepatitis B vaccine is making a difference in preventing perinatal Hepatitis B transmission and saving millions of lives.

Hepatitis B is a significant global health threat and common in many parts of the world, with approximately 240 million worldwide chronically infected, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Chronic infection with the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) causes an estimated 780,000 deaths worldwide each year. Many people with HBV were infected at birth or during early childhood, which increases the chance of chronic, or lifelong, illness. Over time, chronic HBV infection can cause serious health problems including liver cancer and liver failure.

Doctor talking with pregnant patient

All pregnant women in the United States and many other countries are routinely screened for the Hepatitis B virus.

Preventing Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is spread when blood or other body fluids from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. Without timely intervention, a pregnant woman who has HBV infection can pass the virus to her infant at birth. This is referred to as perinatal transmission. Up to 90% of infected infants develop chronic HBV infection, and an estimated one-fourth of them will die prematurely from chronic liver disease.

To address this public health concern, all pregnant women in the United States and many other countries are now routinely screened for HBV. A safe and effective vaccine for HBV is available. If a pregnant woman has HBV, health care providers take extra effort to make sure her newborn gets timely vaccination to prevent this deadly disease.

Completing the vaccine series can prevent transmission of the virus in over 90% of infants born to infected women. To protect every infant from potential infection, CDC recommends all babies get the first shot in the Hepatitis B vaccine series before leaving the hospital, and completing the vaccine series as recommended.

Vaccination is Saving Lives

In the United States and many parts of the world, widespread infant vaccination programs have led to dramatic declines of new Hepatitis B cases.

As of 2013, WHO reported that 183 Member States vaccinated infants against Hepatitis B as part of their vaccination schedules, resulting in an average of 81% of children in these countries receiving the Hepatitis B vaccine. This is a tremendous increase from the 31 countries who did in 1992, the year that the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to recommend global vaccination against Hepatitis B. WHO estimates that since the introduction of routine infant vaccination in 1982, millions of premature deaths due to liver disease have been prevented.