Infection with the hepatitis B virus is the most common cause of liver disease in the world and its significance is really very much underestimated. If people realized how much suffering and loss of life is caused today by this virus, the use of the vaccination against hepatitis B infection would become much more utilized.

It is in the developing world where hepatitis B wreaks most of its havoc – in countries like South East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of China, 25% of the population is infected by early childhood. Unfortunately these countries do not get the vaccine to those most in need.

It is mind boggling to learn just how common hepatitis B infection is – it is estimated that 400 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus. No wonder it is the world’s number one cause of severe liver disease!

Hepatitis B is contagious and is transmitted by blood and by sexual activity. In areas of the world where hepatitis B is very common (endemic), the most common form of infection is transmission from infected mother to newborn baby.

Effective and safe vaccines to prevent hepatitis B infection are available and three shots are needed for long term immunity.

Vaccination against hepatitis B is highly recommended for:

All children

Health care workers

Household members living with an infected person

Sexual partners of someone infected with hepatitis B

Travelers from Western countries intending to reside for extended periods in parts of the world where hep B is endemic

It is important to vaccinate young children because –

Most chronically infected individuals are first infected with hepatitis B as infants or children. These are the people most at risk of chronic and severe liver disease from this virus.