Hepatitis B is a very serious liver disease; it is caused by a virus. The virus can enter the blood stream, attack the liver and cause severe illness. In some cases it is possible for the hepatitis B virus to remain in someone’s body for a lifetime causing ongoing damage to the liver. The hepatitis B virus belongs to a family of DNA viruses called Hepadaviridae. These viruses primarily infect liver cells.
It is estimated that 300,000 new cases of hepatitis B are discovered each year in the United States alone. More than one million people carry the virus in their blood. There are close to 5,000 hepatitis B related deaths that occur each year in the United States that is due to liver failure or liver cancer due to the virus.
Some of the places where hepatitis B is the most serious is Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, The Pacific Islands, South America and in the Former Soviet Union.
Some individuals with chronic hepatitis B will have clinically insignificant or minimal liver disease and will never develop complications. Others will have clinically apparent chronic hepatitis. Some will go on to develop cirrhosis. Individuals with chronic hepatitis B, especially those with cirrhosis but even so-called chronic carriers, are at an increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Although this type of cancer is relatively rare in the United States, it is the leading cause of cancer death in the world, primarily because the hepatitis B virus infection is a endemic in the East.
Anyone can get hepatitis B. However, children who were born outside of the United States or whose parents were born outside the United States may be at a greater risk for having the hepatitis B virus. This is why vaccinations are so important.
Children and adults not vaccinated can get Hepatitis B in many ways such as being in contact with a person’s blood or bodily fluids that are infected, sharing tooth brushes, razors, washcloths, needles, human bites, having sex with and infected person and getting piercing’s or tattoos with equipment that is not sterile.
The hepatitis B vaccine is one of the safest vaccines that children receive. It has been administered in the United States since 1981, and has been shown to be effective and safe.
Children 0-18 should get the hepatitis B vaccine. If you can not afford to pay for your children’s vaccinations then you need to know that there are programs that you can take advantage of to get your children free vaccinations. Call your local Health Department to find out where you need to go to receive free and low cost vaccinations for your children.
The hepatitis B vaccine is given in a series of three immunizations and provides more than 90 percent protection for both adults and children. The vaccine generally protects against HBV for at least 15 years. In the last decade, the vaccine has been produced in the United States using recombinant DNA technology. That means the HBV antigen used in the vaccine is produced in a laboratory and not derived from the blood of people infected with the virus. You can not get hepatitis B from the vaccine.
For More information Contact:
Ohio Department of Health
1-800-282-0546 or 1-800-232-2522