What Is Hepatitis B?


Hepatitis B, a virus that can cause severe illness, liver damage, and even death, affects over one million Americans; many of these people display no symptoms and are unaware that they are carriers, which can lead to them unknowingly spreading the virus.

While there are measures many can follow to prevent the spread of Hepatitis B, there is one group that requires others to keep them safe – newborns.

There are a variety of ways Hepatitis B can be spread. They include: having unprotected sex, sharing needles, body piercing & tattoos, or using a carrier’s toothbrush or razor, but one of the most common ways to spread the virus is from mother to baby at birth.

Through proper pre-natal care, babies can be protected from getting infected.   During their initial prenatal visit, mothers should receive a series of routine blood tests, including tests to check for Hepatitis B. If you test positive, your doctor can take special precautions at the time of delivery to treat your baby immediately after birth, which would most likely prevent infection.

Within 12 hours after you give birth, your doctor will give your baby a shot of Hepatitis B antibodies and an initial shot of the Hepatitis B vaccine. That should be adequate short-term protection from hepatitis B. Together, the antibodies and the vaccine are about 85 to 95 percent effective at preventing hepatitis B infection in babies. The second and third vaccines doses should be administered at regular well-baby check-ups. All three doses are necessary for life-long protection against Hepatitis B.

If you are pregnancy, make sure your doctor tests you for Hepatitis B. If you do not have a doctor, Flushing Hospital’s Women’s Health Center has expert doctors who can guide you through your entire pregnancy. To schedule an appointment, please call 718-670-8993.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.