Parents Often Underestimate the Risk of Hepatitis B
You can protect your child at birth with a hepatitis B vaccination
A guest post by Carolyn Aldigé, President and Founder, Prevent Cancer Foundation
When you hold your newborn for the first time, it is a life-changing moment. An incredible sense of responsibility takes hold, including ensuring the safety and security of your child. And yet some parents don’t realize that making sure your children receive the hepatitis B vaccine before they leave the hospital is a critical first step in protecting your newborn.
Hepatitis B is a frequently misunderstood virus—you may mistakenly think your child is not at risk for hepatitis B because of misconceptions surrounding the transmission of this infection. Research also shows few people are aware of the connection between hepatitis B and liver cancer.
In an effort to help save lives, the Prevent Cancer Foundation launched Think About the Link™, an education campaign to raise awareness of the link between viruses and cancer, including hepatitis B and liver cancer, and how to prevent them. The hepatitis B virus spreads through blood or other bodily fluids that contain small amounts of blood (even tiny amounts too small to see) from an infected person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infants and children can contract hepatitis B in the following ways:
- At birth from their infected mother;
- Being bitten by an infected person;
- Touching open cuts or sores of an infected person;
- Sharing toothbrushes or other personal items used by an infected person; and
- Food that was chewed (for a baby) by an infected person.
Additionally, the hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least seven days. This poses major risks for babies, who frequently place objects in their mouths and could come into contact with an infected object.
The CDC’s recommended schedule for the hepatitis B vaccine will offer your child the greatest protection, including having your newborn vaccinated with the first of three doses before you leave the hospital.i Nearly 90 percent of infants who contract hepatitis B remain chronically infected. You can avoid this risk altogether by vaccinating your child. The hepatitis B vaccine not only offers protection against the virus, but ultimately can prevent cancer.
Infants are at real risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B, which means they are at real risk of developing cancer. Vaccinating your child at birth is the best way to prevent hepatitis B and liver cancer, and is a critical part of your role as protector.
For more information about Hepatitis B and the vaccine to help prevent it, check out these additional CDC resources: