Covering the Land of Lincoln

Hepatitis B: prevention and treatment

stock photo of hepatitis B vaccine

As many as 2 billion people worldwide will be exposed to hepatitis B during their lifetime, says David Rzepczynski, MD, a gastroenterologist at OSF HealthCare in Urbana, Illinois. Around 250 million people have chronic inflammation of the liver from hepatitis B or are carriers of the virus without inflammation. And around 890,000 people will die from hepatitis B. Asia and Africa are hepatitis B hotspots, Dr. Rzepczynski says, while the United States doesn’t have it as bad.

The statistics might make eyeballs widen, but Dr. Rzepczynski says they are not a reason to panic.

“The majority of people who get exposed to hepatitis B in the adult age – after age 10 – it’s typically a condition you recover from without chronic inflammation,” he says.

The reason for the optimism? There’s a vaccine for hepatitis B that’s been around since the 1980s.

“There has been an aggressive program of initiating vaccines with kids, sometimes even as young as infants, to have protection,” Dr. Rzepczynski says. “And when those [vaccines] are administered at a young age, it’s a highly effective vaccination. This vaccination has an efficacy of 95%-plus in the general population.”

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