Hepatitis B Frequently Asked Questions
Hepatitis B is a serious infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can sometimes lead to chronic hepatitis, liver damage, cancer and even death. The younger you are when you get hepatitis B, the greater the chances of carrying the virus, which increases the chances of severe liver disease later in life.
- Up to 90 percent of babies infected at birth with hepatitis B become carriers.
- Carriers of hepatitis B can pass it on to others through sexual contact or blood exposure.
- Fifteen to 25 percent of these carriers will ultimately die of liver failure.
- About one-third of chronic hepatitis B infections in the United States start in perinatal and early childhood.
- Hepatitis B causes hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) that kills about 1,000 Americans annually.
The vaccine helps your baby make antibodies, which protect him or her from hepatitis B. These antibodies will help fight off the virus if your child ever gets exposed to hepatitis B.
The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective for everyone: newborns, adolescents and adults.
Vaccine reactions are generally mild and don’t last long. The most common reactions include injection-site soreness, fever, redness and swelling at the injection site. As with any vaccine, serious reactions may sometimes occur.
- Up to nine out of 10 babies born to infected mothers will end up being carriers for the rest of their lives.
- Babies who end up as carriers have a one out of four chance of dying from liver problems.
The good news is that 19 out of 20 babies who get the hepatitis B vaccine will be protected for their lifetime.
Yes. Breast-feeding is acceptable when your baby has received HBIG and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital.
It is recommended that your child receive treatment within 12 hours of birth, however, they can receive the vaccine within seven days of birth. Contact your physician or hospital if your child did not receive the HBIG and hepatitis B vaccine at birth.
Hepatitis Bis spread by contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. Children can get 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.
Since hepatitis B can be passed to them by blood or body fluid exposure, they should be tested to see if they have been infected with the virus. If they haven’t been infected, they should get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Updated on: May 3, 2019