About Global Hepatitis B
Updated July 26, 2022
Hepatitis B Can Be Prevented
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease. The hepatitis B vaccine has been available since the 1980s and is safe and highly effective at preventing infection. At least 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine are needed to prevent infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The first dose should be given to babies within 24 hours of birth, followed by 2 to 3 additional doses for full protection.
Hepatitis B is Caused by the Hepatitis B Virus
The virus spreads when blood, semen, or other body fluid from a person infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. The major routes of transmission are:
- Mother to infant (perinatal or vertical transmission)
- Direct contact with blood or open sores of a person infected with the hepatitis B virus
- Sexual contact
- Percutaneous exposure (through contaminated blood, sharing needles or syringes, and drug-injection equipment) to contaminated blood or other infectious body fluids
Chronic Hepatitis B Causes Serious Liver Disease
Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer globally. Chronic hepatitis B infection can cause serious health problems, including:
- Liver damage
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Liver failure
- Liver cancer
Anyone Who is Not Vaccinated Can Get Hepatitis B
Although anyone can contract hepatitis B, infants born to infected mothers are at greater risk. Mother-to-child transmission of HBV is the primary source of chronic infections. Nearly all newborns who become infected at birth will develop chronic hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B is a Leading Cause of Death, Disease, and Economic Burden Globally
Globally, chronic hepatitis B affects approximately 296 million people and contributes to an estimated 820,000 deaths every year. In 2019, over 6 million children under 5 years old were living with hepatitis B. This is because not all countries have a hepatitis B birth dose vaccination program, and some have low vaccination rates for all 3 required doses.
Hepatitis B causes significant economic burden on patients and their families both from direct healthcare costs and indirect costs (such as loss of income due to illness). The complications of chronic hepatitis B occur later in adult years when the individual is making the most economic contribution, so the indirect costs of income earning affects the economy of their entire community.