Hepatitis is inflammation in the liver caused by specific viruses. The hepatitis viruses are referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. All types affect the liver, but they differ in illness severity and prevention options.
In the U.S., the most common forms are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It's one of the more common reasons for liver transplants in the U.S. Hepatitis B can be passed through blood, semen and other bodily fluids. Sneezing and coughing do not spread the virus.
For many people, hepatitis B is acute, or lasts less than six months. Acute infection may not need treatment and can be managed with rest, drinking plenty of fluids and monitoring of the infection.
For some people, however, hepatitis B can become chronic if it lasts more than six months. Chronic infection can go undiagnosed until symptoms of serious liver disease arise. Treatment for may include antiviral medications or a liver transplant if the liver is severely damaged.
The risk of the infection becoming chronic increases the younger people are when they are infected with hepatitis B, particularly newborns or children under 5.
Although there is no cure for hepatitis B, getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent it.
The hepatitis B vaccine usually is given as either a two-dose series spread out over one month or a three-dose series spread out over six months, depending on the vaccine used. Similar to the influenza vaccine, hepatitis B cannot be acquired from getting the vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) updated the vaccine guidelines for hepatitis B.
People who have not completed the vaccine series should contact their primary care provider to discuss the vaccine.