Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious (sometimes fatal) disease caused by the hepatitis B virus that causes permanent damage to the liver.

The disease is contagious and is spread by an infected mother to her unborn baby, and by exposure to infected body fluids such as saliva and blood. It is usually spread between people by activities such as sharing toothbrushes and razors (the virus can survive outside the body for 7 days) or by sexual contact. Hepatitis B is often a ‘silent’ infection, because people have few or no symptoms in the early stages. This means that they can spread the virus to others unknowingly.

About 69% of people show no symptoms when infected with hepatitis B virus, and of those who do have some symptoms, most think that they have the flu. Common symptoms include fever, tiredness, muscle and joint pain, loss of appetite and mild nausea and vomiting. More serious symptoms include severe nausea and vomiting, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) and a bloated stomach. Infection with the virus could cause your child to have a serious lifelong disease (common in children under the age of 6).

Hepatitis B is often a lifelong (chronic) infection that causes scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver, liver cancer, and eventually liver failure and death. There is no cure for hepatitis B, only prevention by vaccinating against the virus.

Currently more than 780,000 people die every year from Hepatitis B worldwide. Children are at greatest risk – 80-90% of babies under 1 year old will develop serious chronic disease, compared to less than 5% of adults. The 6-in-1 vaccine protects children from the Hepatitis B virus.