Source: NYSDOH http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/hepatitis/hbvinfo.htm.
Accessed May 1, 2008.
Revised January 2008.
Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection in the
world. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which is
100 times more infectious than the AIDS virus. HBV is most efficiently
transmitted through contact with blood and body fluids of an
infected person. This can occur through direct blood-to-blood
contact, sex, illicit drug use, and from an infected mother
to her newborn during delivery. HBV spreads because many people
are unaware they are infected with the virus and unknowingly
pass it on to those who are in close contact with them.
Most people are able to fight off an HBV infection and clear the virus from their blood. However, 5-10% of adults, 30-50% of children, and 90% of infants will develop chronic infection which can lead to liver failure, cirrhosis (scarring) or cancer of the liver. Approximately 400 million persons worldwide are chronically infected with HBV, including about 1.25 million in the United States. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Americans die of hepatitis B-related liver complications including cirrhosis and liver cancer each year.
Fortunately, there is a safe and effective vaccine to protect against hepatitis B infection. It is recommended that all infants, children and adolescents up to the age of 18 receive the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine is also recommended for adults who may be at high risk for infection.
(from the NYSDOH Web site)