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Hepatitis B
 
Taking the hepatitis B vaccine series is a safe and effective way to prevent hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infects the liver. Sometimes people who are infected with hepatitis B never recover fully from the infection. They carry the virus and can infect others for the rest of their lives. Vaccination is the best protection in preventing hepatitis B infection.

• Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with the blood, blood products, or body fluids of an infected person. HBV is also spread through having sex with an infected person without using a condom, and sharing needles. Hepatitis B is not spread through food or water or casual contact. Hepatitis B can affect anyone. One out of 20 people in the overall US population will be exposed to hepatitis B some time in their lives.

• Hepatitis B infection usually causes symptoms that include: jaundice (yellow eyes or skin), loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach, or joint pain. Symptoms may also include a feeling of extreme tiredness that may affect one's ability to work for weeks or months.

• Some people who contract infection will develop a chronic infection. Even though persons chronically infected will not have symptoms, they can transmit the virus to others.

• If you are chronically infected with hepatitis B, you should: 1) avoid blood and body fluid contact with others to prevent the further spread of hepatitis B infection including using universal precautions and practicing safer sex; 2) visit your hemophilia treatment center regularly to monitor your liver function and health; and 3) encourage family members to be vaccinated to avoid the spread of the virus.

• Although hepatitis B has been transmitted to persons with hemophilia through blood products in the past, today blood donor testing for hepatitis B infection and treating blood products with more effective killing agents has essentially eliminated the spread of hepatitis B infection through blood products. In fact, no cases of hepatitis B transmission through use of commercially prepared inactivated concentrates have been reported in the US since 1987. Despite the progress in preventing hepatitis B infection, vaccination is still recommended for all persons who use blood products.

• Infection with hepatitis B can be prevented. The hepatitis B vaccine is the best protection against the virus. The current recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that all children and anyone at special risk for hepatitis B, including persons with hemophilia, should receive the vaccination series (three shots).

• To determine if you could benefit from hepatitis B vaccination, free blood testing is available through participation in CDC's Universal Data Collection program offered by your hemophilia treatment center.

For more information on each fact sheet or to locate a hemophilia treatment center near you, contact NHF's information service, HANDI, at 800-42-HANDI or info@hemophilia.org.