Monday, December 9, 2013

Hepatitis B: Protect Your Baby for Life

By Kathy Gaines

The hepatitis B virus can cause severe liver disease. It is commonly spread from person to person when the blood or other bodily fluid of one person enters the body of another. It is estimated that 350 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis B. If a pregnant woman is infected with the hepatitis B virus, she can easily pass the virus to her baby at birth.  Babies and young children can also get hepatitis B from contact with family members or others who carry the virus in their blood.

An infant infected with hepatitis B has a 90 percent chance of developing a lifelong, chronic infection and suffering from liver disease. For every 1,000 pregnant women that give birth each year, 1 to 2 of them has hepatitis B.  Worldwide, most people who are infected with hepatitis B are infected at birth or during early childhood. Fortunately, there is a vaccine to prevent babies from getting hepatitis B.

Two steps to protecting your child from hepatitis B: 

Step 1: Get prenatal care that includes testing for the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B may not make a woman feel sick, but she could still pass the virus to her baby. If a hepatitis B test detects the virus, the baby needs a hepatitis B vaccine and a hepatitis B immune globulin—a medication that contains antibodies to help strengthen the immune system—at birth. Otherwise, the baby may only receive the vaccine and leave the hospital without complete care.

Step 2: Protect your baby from the virus as early as possible. It is important that newborns get the first dose of the vaccine in the hospital at birth.  At the 1-2 month checkup, the baby will get a second dose.  A third dose at six months will assure long-term protection from the hepatitis B virus.

For more information about hepatitis or the services offered by CDPHE's Hepatitis Program contact .
Thanks for reading!

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