Hepatitis B (HBV) in Children

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Children


Illustration of the  anatomy of the biliary system

What is hepatitis B (HBV)?

Hepatitis B is a serious infection
of the liver. It’s caused by the hepatitis B virus. It can be mild and short-term.
Or it
may be long-term and lead to chronic liver disease and liver failure in infants and
young children. 

The hepatitis B virus is spread from person to person through blood and body fluids,
such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or saliva. Infants may also get the disease
if they are born to a mother who has the virus. Infected children often spread the
virus to other children if there is frequent contact. People who are likely to be
exposed to hepatitis B are:

  • Babies born to mothers who have hepatitis B

  • Babies born to mothers who
    have come from a country where hepatitis B is widespread, such as southeast Asia
    and China

  • People in long-term care

  • People who live with someone
    with the virus

  • People who need kidney
    dialysis

  • People who use IV drugs, have
    many sex partners, or have unprotected sex

About one-third of people with hepatitis B in the U.S. have an unknown source.

Why is hepatitis B a concern?

The younger the person, the greater
the likelihood of staying infected with hepatitis B and having life-long liver problems.
These can include scarring of the liver and liver cancer.

Hepatitis B vaccine

The hepatitis B vaccine is widely
used for routine childhood immunization. The vaccine prevents hepatitis B infection.
It’s given as a 3 or 4 shots. Follow the vaccine schedule advised by your child’s
healthcare provider.