Hepatitis B is a serious disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). Symptoms of the acute illness caused by HBV may include loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting, fatigue, jaundice (yellow skin and/or eyes), pain in joints, muscles and stomach. HBV can also cause a long-term or chronic illness in which the inflammation of the liver leads to liver damage (cirrhosis), liver cancer, and death.
According to the CDC, about 1.25 million people in the US have chronic HBV infection, and 80,000 people (most of them young adults) get infected with HBV each year. Each year, 4,000 - 5,000 people die of chronic Hepatitis B.
HBV is spread through contact with infected blood or body fluids of a person with HBV. It can be acquired through open cuts, wounds, or mucus membranes, by having unprotected sex, by sharing needles, by a baby during the birth process. Probably one-third of people who are infected with HBV in this country do not know how they got it.
Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent Hepatitis B infection. It is considered the first anti-cancer vaccine because it can prevent a form of liver cancer.
Since, 1991, Hepatitis B vaccine has been included in the schedule of childhood immunizations recommended by CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice. Infants receive the vaccine and many children and adolescents have already received it. It is now required in South Carolina schools and some healthcare settings.
Although Hepatitis B vaccination is not mandatory for entrance at Winthrop University, we follow the advice of CDC and the American College Health Association. That is, we strongly recommend that our students receive the Hepatitis B vaccination series.