Do you know which vaccine your baby received on the day he/she was born? Hepatitis B. The first dose is given to babies on their day of birth – so it must be pretty important, right? Right! But how much do you know about Hepatitis B…or the four other types for that matter? Monday is World Hepatitis Day, so we thought it would be appropriate to educate our readers about the dangers and prevention of this disease.
Let’s review the basics. There are five different types of hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D and E. All of these viruses cause short term, or acute infection. However the hepatitis B, C and D viruses can also cause long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis. Here are the “cliff’s notes” about each type of hepatitis:
Hepatitis A: the most acute virus of the three, it often presents like a stomach bug. While the hepatitis A vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunization schedule, many adults have not been vaccinated.
Hepatitis B: a very hearty virus, can live outside of the body for at least seven days (and on household objects like toothbrushes and razors), an infected mother can pass it to her baby at birth, and when kids are infected, it is much more dangerous than adults because they can develop a chronic infection that can lead to liver cancer. Many people are infected with hepatitis B virus and don’t have any symptoms, but they can still pass it on to other people. The virus is transmitted through blood or other body fluids. Vaccination is part of the routine childhood schedule and is also available for adults.
Hepatitis C: a virus that the body is unable to clear by itself, so infection typically becomes chronic. It is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact. There is no vaccination available.
Hepatitis D: found in individuals infected with Hepatitis B, this type is spread through contact with infected blood. There is currently no antiviral therapy or vaccination available.
Hepatitis E: spread through eating food or drinking water contaminated by the feces of an infected person. A vaccine exists but is not available in the United States.
So, you may be asking – how does this apply to me (and my child), and what can I do to protect my family from hepatitis? Well, first and foremost – you can make sure your family is vaccinated! This is the simplest and most powerful way to provide protection against Hepatitis A and B. The CDC recommends three doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine (given at birth, 2 months and between 6-18 months) and two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine (given six months apart starting at 12-23 months.) Adults can get them, too!
And finally, because it’s much more fun to watch finger-puppets sing about hepatitis prevention than read about it…
Most people have no idea how prevalent viral hepatitis is (one in 12 people around the world are living with chronic viral hepatitis), and often because there is a stigma attached to the virus, it is misunderstood. In reality, it is a risk to us all. Thankfully, Hepatitis A and B can be prevented thanks to vaccinations. If you think your family is safe without a vaccination, please think again.
To visit the “Wall of Stories” where those affected by hepatitis have shared their personal experiences, click here.