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Hepatitis B Vaccine for Adults

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). For some, hepatitis B infection is a short-term (acute) illness, but for others it becomes a long-term (chronic) illness, which may lead to liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood, semen, or other body fluids. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth.

Symptoms

Not all people infected with the hepatitis B virus will have symptoms. Adults and children over the age of 5 years are more likely to have symptoms; however, even those those people who don’t show symptoms can still spread the virus to others.

The symptoms usually appear about three months after infection and can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)

Prevention

The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine (HepB). HepB is usually given as a series of 3 shots.

The CDC recommends hepatitis B vaccination for:

  • All infants, starting with the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth
  • All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been fully vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • Unvaccinated adults at risk for hepatitis, in addition to any adult who wants to be protected from hepatitis B.

Those at risk for hepatitis B include:

  • People whose sex partners have hepatitis B
  • Sexually active persons who are not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship.
  • Persons seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men
  • People who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
  • People who have close household contact with someone infected with the hepatitis B virus
  • Health care and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
  • People with end-stage renal disease, including predialysis, hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and home dialysis patients
  • Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
  • Travelers to regions with moderate or high rates of Hepatitis B
  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with HIV infection
  • Other people may be encouraged by their doctor to get hepatitis B vaccine; for example, adults 60 and older with diabetes.
  • Pregnant women with any of the risk factors listed above should talk to their healthcare provider about getting vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Pregnant Women and Hepatitis B - When a pregnant woman goes for prenatal care, she will be given a blood test that checks for hepatitis B infection. This is important because women infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during birth. This can be prevented by giving the infant Hepatitis B Immune Globulin (HBIG) and the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and then completing the full series of HepB vaccinations. Newborns who become infected with hepatitis B virus have a 90% chance of developing chronic Hepatitis B, which can eventually lead to serious health problems, including liver damage, liver cancer, and even death.