Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. With this disease, signs and symptoms occur in about 30% to 50% of patients infected. Only 30% have jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). Children under the age of five rarely have symptoms of hepatitis. When and if symptoms occur, patients may show signs of jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and joint pain. Some patients will become chronically infected with Hepatitis B. This will occur in up to 90% of children born to mothers who are infected, 30% of children infected at one to five years, and six percent of persons infected after age five. Death from chronic liver disease occurs in 15-25% of chronically infected persons - 1.2 million individuals are chronic carriers of Hepatitis B in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 5% of the world's populations are chronically infected with Hepatitis B. One million die from Hepatitis B worldwide each year. In the United States approximately 80 thousand become infected and approximately 3,000 die annually from Hepatitis B. Risk factors for Hepatitis B are individuals whom have multiple sex partners or diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases, sex contacts of infected persons, injection drug users, household contacts of chronically infected persons, infants born to infected mothers, infants/ children of immigrants from areas with high rates of Hepatitis B, some health care workers, and hemodialysis patients.

You should not be vaccinated with this vaccine if:

  • You have ever had a life threatening allergic reaction to baker's yeast (used to make bread)
  • You have ever had a severe allergic reaction to previous dose of Hepatitis vaccine
  • Or, you are moderately or severely ill at the time of a scheduled vaccine with Hepatitis B (you should wait until you recover from the condition).

Individuals who take these vaccines should have few if any side effects. These diseases are always much more severe than the vaccine. A few individuals may experience:

  • Soreness and/or redness where the shot was administered, lasting a day or two,
  • Mild to moderate fever, again lasting a day or two. Severe reaction is extremely rare!

Reference: CDC. General Recommendations on Immunization Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)-MMWR February 8, 2002 / 51(RR02);1-36 Immunization Action Coalition www.immunize.org.