Hepatitis B Virus – HBV
Hepatitis B is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages in the United States and around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control the number of new cases has declined from 260,000 per year in the 1980's to 60,000 new cases in 2004. This number includes thousands of infections due to occupational exposures (mostly from needle sticks) resulting in approximately 200 deaths.
In the U.S. there are an estimated 1.25 million chronically infected individuals, of whom 20 - 30% of these acquired their infection in childhood.
HBV is usually transmitted through "blood to blood" contact. It initially causes an inflammation of the liver, and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The hepatitis B virus is a much hardier virus than HIV, and it can survive in dried blood for up to 7 days. For this reason, it is critical that blood and materials contaminated with blood be properly handled and promptly disposed.
About 30% of people have no signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms are less common in children than adults. After exposure it may take a few weeks to 6 months for symptoms to become noticeable. Short term symptoms may include: loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting, abdominal pain, joint pain and jaundice. Long term consequences could include: liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer and death. The diagnosis is made from specific blood tests. For more info please review the Fact Sheet (pdf format)
Hepatitis B Vaccine
The good news is that there is a vaccine to prevent infection with Hepatitis B. The vaccine is safe and effective (it contains no live virus or blood products). The vaccine series consists of 3 doses given over a 6 month period (initial dose, 2nd dose one month later, final dose 6 months after the first dose). This vaccine is available to students at the University Health Center for a fee, please call and schedule an appointment. (540-568-6178)
You will not need the vaccine series at this time if:
- you have previously received the vaccine series,
- antibody testing has revealed you are immune,
- vaccination is not recommended for medical reasons.
The HBV vaccine is the best means we have of protecting you from contracting HBV, you are encouraged to get the vaccination. If you began this series and missed a dose, you DO NOT need to begin the series over. Just schedule an appointment for the next dose as soon as you can.
In addition to getting vaccinated, using Universal Precautions is your best prevention of disease transmission.