Hepatitis B Vaccine: What you need to know.
Hepatitis B is a serious disease that affects the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus (H.B.V.). H.B.V. can cause:
Acute (short-term) illness. This can lead to:
• loss of appetite
• diarrhea and vomiting
• jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
• pain in muscles, joints, and stomach
Acute illness is more common among adults. Children who become infected usually do not have acute illness.
Chronic (long-term) infection. Some people go on to develop chronic H.B.V. infection. This can be very serious, and often leads to:
• liver damage (cirrhosis)
• liver cancer
Chronic infection is more common among infants and children than among adults. People who are infected can spread H.B.V. to others, even if they don’t appear sick.
• In 2005, about 51,000 people became infected with hepatitis B.
• About 1.25 million people in the United States have chronic H.B.V. infection.
• Each year about 3,000 to 5,000 people die from cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by H.B.V..
Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. A person can become infected by:
- contact with a mother’s blood and body fluids at the time of birth;
- contact with blood and body fluids through breaks in the skin such as bites, cuts, or sores;
- contact with objects that could have blood or body fluids on them such as toothbrushes or razors;
- having unprotected sex with an infected person;
- sharing needles when injecting drugs;
- being stuck with a used needle on the job.
Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B, and the serious consequences of H.B.V. infection, including liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Routine hepatitis B vaccination of U.S. children began in 1991. Since then, the reported incidence of acute hepatitis B among children and adolescents has dropped by more than 95% – and by 75% in all age groups.
Hepatitis B vaccine is made from a part of the hepatitis B virus. It cannot cause H.B.V. infection.
Hepatitis B vaccine is usually given as a series of 3 or 4 shots. This vaccine series gives long-term protection from H.B.V. infection, possibly lifelong.
Children and Adolescents
• All children should get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and should have completed the vaccine series by 6 through 18 months of age.
• Children and adolescents through 18 years of age who did not get the vaccine when they were younger should also be vaccinated.
• All unvaccinated adults at risk for H.B.V. infection should be vaccinated. This includes:
- sex partners of people infected with H.B.V.,
- men who have sex with men,
- people who inject street drugs,
- people with more than one sex partner,
- people with chronic liver or kidney disease,
- people with jobs that expose them to human blood,
- household contacts of people infected with H.B.V.,
- residents and staff in institutions for the developmentally disabled,
- kidney dialysis patients,
- people who travel to countries where hepatitis B is common,
- people with H.I.V. infection.
• Anyone else who wants to be protected from H.B.V. infection may be vaccinated.
• Anyone with a life-threatening allergy to baker’s yeast, or to any other component of the vaccine, should not get hepatitis B vaccine. Tell your provider if you have any severe allergies.
• Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine should not get another dose.
• Anyone who is moderately or severely ill when a dose of vaccine is scheduled should probably wait until they recover before getting the vaccine.
Pregnant women who need protection from H.B.V. infection may be vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a very safe vaccine. Most people do not have any problems with it.
The following mild problems have been reported:
• Soreness where the shot was given (up to about 1 person in 4).
•Temperature of 99.9 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (up to about 1 person in 15).
Severe problems are extremely rare. Severe allergic reactions are believed to occur about once in 1.1 million doses.
A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a serious reaction. But the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. More than 100 million people have gotten hepatitis B vaccine in the United States.
What should I look for?
• Any unusual condition, such as a high fever or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives,
paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness