College Health / Hepatitis B
Facts About Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a serious infectious disease which attacks the liver and can lead to liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer, or liver failure. Although there is no cure for Hepatitis B, a vaccine is available for the prevention of this infection.
Hepatitis B is a virus which is spread through contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person. The virus can live in all body fluids of an infected person including blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluids. It can enter the body through cuts, tears, or abrasions, through the mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, anus and eyes. It can be transmitted through sexual contact, during contact sports, sharing razors, toothbrushes, piercings, or non-sterile instruments or needles.
Risk Factors for College Students
Approximately 75% of all Hepatitis B infections occur in individuals between the ages of 15 and 39. College students may be at a higher risk for exposure to this virus because of their lifestyle, such as living in residence halls, participating in contact sports, engaging in risky sexual behavior, getting tattoos or piercings, sharing toothbrushes, razors, or needles. All of these activities increase the risk of exposure.
Benefits Of the Hepatitis B Vaccine
The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and 96% effective for those who complete the 3-injection series, which is administered over a 6 month period. The most common side effect of the vaccine is soreness at the injection site. Other side effects, such as fever, nausea and headache are rare and usually mild. You cannot get hepatitis B from the vaccine.
The CDC recommends that anyone age 18 years or younger be vaccinated, as well as anyone at high risk. The NCAA recommends that all student athletes be vaccinated. The American College Health Association recommends that all college students be vaccinated.
Most health care providers have the vaccine available. If your provider does not, contact your local health department for information about where to obtain the vaccine.