There are almost two million people estimated to be living with hepatitis B in the U.S. Almost a quarter of those people will be at risk of premature death from liver disease or liver cancer due to long-term, chronic infection.  The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommend that all adults 19 to 59 years old become vaccinated against the hepatitis B virus (HBV) regardless of risk factors.

HBV is a vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.  It is spread through bodily fluids from an infected person.  Spread may occur through sexual contact, needle sharing, syringes, or mother to baby at birth. Common symptoms include:  fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice.

The best way to prevent long-term illness associated with hepatitis B is to get vaccinated.  In 2005, it was recommended that all newborns should receive their first HBV vaccine dose before hospital discharge, resulting in large decreases in new cases among children and adolescents. In adults, rates of acute infections are now highest among 30-59-year olds, and rates have increased among older and middle age adults.  Proving that the current risk-based screening process for adults is not working efficiently to reduce the number of new infections.

It is important to get vaccinated to prevent infection and illness from hepatitis B. The HBV vaccine can either be given as a 2-dose vaccine series administered over a 1-month period, or a 3-dose vaccine series administered over a 6-month period.  It is available at all District 2 Public Health departments.   

For more information on  hepatitis b, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.

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