All infants, 11-12 year olds and high risk adults should be vaccinated against hepatitis B, according to the latest advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Hepatitis B is a virus which infects the liver, causing jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), tiredness, nausea, dark urine, pale stools and fever. Most cases occur in adolescence and early adult life, especially from sexual activity and injecting drugs.
Some patients who catch hepatitis B unknowingly become “carriers” and keep the virus in their bodies all their lives. Carriers have a high risk of developing liver cancer and serious liver damage later in life. Carriers can pass hepatitis B on to others.
High risk groups
The NHMRC recommends vaccination for people in these groups:
· All infants, from birth
· All pre-adolescents, at age 11-12
· Children under age 10 in communities with high carrier rates
· Those who live with carriers
· Those at sexual risk (sexual partners of carriers, homosexual men)
· Injecting drug users
· Haemodialysis patients and those with certain bleeding disorders
· Those with liver disease or hepatitis C
· The intellectually disabled and jail inmates and close contacts
· Health care workers & embalmers
How to prevent hepatitis B
Follow safe sexual practices (eg. use condoms) and avoid needle sharing. Take care not to touch blood or open sores and do not share personal items (eg toothbrushes, razors).
Hepatitis B vaccination is very safe and effective. Three doses are required over a six month period and give protection for life. No further boosters are required.
A combined vaccine is now available which protects against hepatitis A as well as hepatitis B.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.