Hepatitis B Vaccine Saves Lives
Hepatitis B is a significant public health threat, with up to 2.2 million people in the United States infected. Many people with chronic hepatitis B were infected at birth or during early childhood, which increases the chance of a chronic, or lifelong, illness. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can cause serious health problems including liver cancer and liver failure. Recently, CDC published updated vaccination recommendations for the hepatitis B virus.
Learn more about how the vaccine keeps children and adults from being infected with the hepatitis B virus.
Preventing Perinatal Hepatitis B Transmission
The hepatitis B virus is spread when blood or other body fluid from an infected person enters the body of another person. A pregnant woman who is infected with the hepatitis B virus can pass the virus to her infant at birth if the baby isn’t vaccinated in a timely manner. In fact, 90% of infants infected at birth develop a lifelong infection, and an estimated one-fourth of them will die prematurely. To address this public health concern, all pregnant women in the United States and many other countries are now screened routinely for hepatitis B. If a pregnant woman has hepatitis B, health care providers take extra effort to prevent this deadly disease. Some women may benefit from treatment during their pregnancies. All infants born to mothers with hepatitis B should get the first vaccine dose within 12 hours of birth and complete the series of shots. 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 also recommends all babies get the first shot in the hepatitis B vaccine series within 24 hours of birth, and completing the vaccine series as recommended. In the United States and many parts of the world, widespread infant vaccination programs have led to dramatic declines of new hepatitis B cases.
Preventing Hepatitis B in Adults
Some adults are also at increased risk for hepatitis B virus infection. The best way to prevent infection with the hepatitis B virus is by being vaccinated, which is usually given as a series of 3 shots over 6 months. The entire series of shots is needed for long-term protection. The vaccine is recommended for adults with sexual risks for hepatitis B, including people with multiple sex partners during the previous 6 months, anyone seeking evaluation for a sexually transmitted disease (STD), men who have sex with other men, and anyone having sex with an infected partner. The vaccine is also recommended for people who inject drugs, people who live with someone with hepatitis B, travelers to certain countries, people receiving hemodialysis, and healthcare and public safety workers exposed to blood. Also, people with certain diseases and conditions including chronic liver disease, hepatitis C virus infection, or HIV infection are recommended to get vaccinated for hepatitis B, along with anyone else at increased risk.
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- Page last reviewed: March 28, 2018
- Page last updated: March 28, 2018
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