1. Why get vaccinated?
Hepatitis B is a serious disease.
The hepatitis B virus can cause short-term (acute) illness that leads to:
- loss of appetite
- diarrhea and vomiting
- jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
- pain in muscles, joints, and stomach
It can also cause long-term (chronic) illness that leads to:
- liver damage (cirrhosis)
- liver cancer
About 1.25 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B virus infection.
Each year it is estimated that:
- 200,000 people, mostly young adults, get infected with hepatitis B virus
- More than 11,000 people have to stay in the hospital because of hepatitis B
- 4,000 to 5,000 people die from chronic hepatitis B
Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent hepatitis B. It is the first anticancer vaccine because it can prevent a form of liver cancer.
2. How is hepatitis B virus spread?
Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. A person can get infected in several ways, such as:
- during birth when the virus passes from an infected mother to her baby
- by having sex with an infected person
- by injecting illegal drugs
- by being stuck with a used needle on the job
- by sharing personal items, such as a razor or toothbrush with an infected person
People can get hepatitis B virus infection without knowing how they got it. About 1/3 of hepatitis B cases in the United States have an unknown source.