A Comprehensive Immunization Strategy to Eliminate Transmission of Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the United States
Hepatitis B vaccination is the most effective measure to prevent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and its consequences, including cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. This report, the second of a two-part statement from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), provides updated recommendations to increase hepatitis B vaccination of adults at risk for HBV infection. Created: 12/8/2006 by MMWR.
Date Released: 12/15/2006. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A Cup of Health with CDC
December 15, 2006
A Comprehensive Immunization Strategy to Eliminate Transmission of HBV in the
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for
Disease Control and
Prevention. CDC – safer, healthier people.
[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a
weekly broadcast of the
MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew
Each year, Hepatitis B kills about 700,000 people worldwide. In the past twenty
the U.S., there has been a growing awareness of the impact of hospitalizations,
cancers, and deaths that have resulted from Hepatitis B. The virus that causes
B is often spread at birth from mother to child. It can also be spread among
during unprotected sex and as a result of blood exposure during health care
certain behaviors, such as injection-drug use. The virus can scar or destroy
and lead to liver failure and liver cancer.
Fortunately, a vaccination program for infants started more than twenty years
has led to a drop in new Hepatitis B cases in the past ten years, especially
and teens. However similar declines have not occurred among adults because many
adults at risk for this infection remain unvaccinated.
To protect more adults from Hepatitis B, CDC researchers have updated the
immunization recommendations for adults. Here to discuss these recommendations
tell us more about Hepatitis B is Dr. John Ward from CDC’s Division of
Thanks so much for joining us, Dr. Ward.
[Dr. Ward] Thanks, Matthew. It’s great to be here.
[Matthew Reynolds] What can be done to prevent Hepatitis
[Dr. John Ward] Fortunately, we have a variety of interventions
that are very effective in
preventing this deadly viral infection. We, in this country, screen the blood
that blood donations that harbor this virus are eliminated from the transfusion
before recipients receive them. We have issued recommendations so that people
understand the behaviors that lead to transmission of Hepatitis B. These behaviors
very similar to the behaviors that transmit HIV, which include unprotected sexual
and exposure to blood, in some of the ways that you mentioned. But particularly
particularly important for persons in certain occupations like health-care workers
persons who practice certain behaviors such as injecting-drug use. But the subject
today is really to emphasize probably the most important and effective intervention
have for this infection, which is vaccination. We've had a vaccine for over
25 years now
and we have made remarkable progress in preventing this infection because of
availability of this vaccine.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well, how safe is this vaccine and does
[Dr. John Ward] The Hepatitis B vaccine is very safe. We've
had a Hepatitis B vaccine
licensed for use in the United States since 1981, so we have a long experience
it, and it's demonstrated itself to be very safe. In addition, it's also very
effective. In fact,
for persons who receive all three doses, which are the number of doses recommended
for the full series, 95 percent of them will be protected from infection with
this virus. It's
fantastic in public health when you have an intervention that is so safe, as
well as so
effective, that you can recommend it for use by millions of people.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well, you mentioned millions of people.
Are there specific groups or
populations that you have in mind that should be vaccinated against Hepatitis
[Dr. John Ward] In 1991, CDC embarked upon a goal to eliminate
transmission in the United States. And the first order of business was to protect
who were being born to mothers who were infected with this virus because of
risk of developing chronic Hepatitis B themselves. And so, beginning at that
children were recommended to receive this vaccine as infants, and then progressively
since that time, older children and teenagers were recommended to receive this
as a catch-up strategy so that those children would also be protected even though
vaccine was not available earlier in their lives. Throughout that time period,
had the behaviors that we've been discussing have also been recommended to receive
this vaccine. So, specifically, adults who have sexual activity with multiple
particularly behaviors that result in unprotected sexual contact, adults who
exposures to blood by virtue of their occupation, such as health-care workers
safety workers, or have certain behaviors, such as injecting-drug use, that
put them in
contact with the blood of others. And then, also, family members of persons
Hepatitis B, because even incidental contact through activities such as contact
toothbrushes or shaving razors and that type of thing will also result in transmission,
those close persons with close contact should also be vaccinated. Unfortunately,
vaccination coverage has remained low for these groups throughout this time
and so these new recommendations are designed to change that and protect more
adults from becoming infected.
[Matthew Reynolds] Well, if I go to my doctor, do I have
to talk about the reason I think
I’m at risk for Hepatitis B infection in order to receive the vaccination?
[Dr. John Ward] We do not recommend that that is a requirement
for a person to receive
Hepatitis B vaccine as an adult. We're encouraging physicians to bring up these
behaviors with their patients because, not only are they risk behaviors for
but they're also risk behaviors for other important infections, such as syphilis
and those are important to address as well. But we also recognize that adults
want to share this information with their physicians for whatever reason, and
certainly do not want that to be a barrier to adults receiving the vaccine who
it. And so we are very emphatic and very clear when we say is that all an adult
has to do to receive this vaccine is go to their physician and ask for it.
[Matthew Reynolds] What about those people who already have
Hepatitis B? Is there
anything that can be done for them?
[Dr. John Ward] Fortunately, persons with chronic Hepatitis
B have treatment options
that were not available even several years ago. CDC estimates that between one
one and a half million persons in this country are living with chronic Hepatitis
them at risk for progression to liver failure, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.
So it's very
important for those persons to be diagnosed with their infection and then to
for treatments, which have been shown to reverse the severe consequences of
disease and provide hope that persons with chronic infection can live a full
life in spite of
this infection. Diagnosing persons with chronic Hepatitis B provides another
to identify those around them who are unvaccinated and at risk for becoming
and bringing them in and vaccinating them so that they don't unknowingly transmit
infection to others.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Ward, thanks for talking with us today.
[Dr. John Ward] Thank you very much.
[Matthew Reynolds] That’s it for this week’s
show. Don’t forget to join us next week.
Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with CDC.
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