Hepatitis B Overview
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is an STD. STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. It is a virus that affects the liver and the virus that causes this infection is called Hepatitis B virus (HBV). More than 350 million people have Hepatitis B, and an estimated 786,000 die from the disease each year globally. In the U.S., about 1.4 million people have chronic Hepatitis B, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are 43,000 new cases of Hepatitis B infections each year.
How prevalent is acute or chronic Hepatitis B in the United States?
In 2013, there were an estimated 19,764 new hepatitis B virus infection in the United States. However, the official number of reported Hepatitis B cases is much lower. Many people don’t know they are infected or may not have symptoms and therefore never seek the attention of medical or public health officials.
For some people, hepatitis B is an acute, or short-term, illness but for others, it can become a long-term, chronic infection. Risk for chronic infection is related to age at infection: approximately 90% of infected infants become chronically infected, compared with 2%–6% of adults. Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Acute Hepatitis B in the United States has declined by approximately 82% since 1991. At that time, routine Hepatitis B vaccination of children was implemented and has dramatically decreased the rates of the disease in the United States, particularly among children. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.