According to the CDC, vaccine-preventable childhood diseases in the United States are near an all-time low. But, some viruses and bacteria are still around and can cause serious illness. It's important that all children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time. In other countries, many vaccine-preventable diseases are relatively common. Because of travel, these diseases could return to the U.S., resulting in increased, and unnecessary, illness, disability, and death among children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that infants be fully immunized or vaccinated because recent studies have shown that infants who are vaccinated have a decreased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Immunizations start at birth. The first immunization given is the hepatitis B vaccine. Listed below are some facts about hepatitis B:
- Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV).
- Potentially, there may not be any symptoms present when first infected; the likelihood of early symptoms decreases with the person's age. If present, yellow skin or eyes, tiredness, stomach ache, loss of appetite, nausea, or joint pain may occur.
- The younger the person is when infected with HBV, the greater the likelihood of staying infected and having life-long liver problems, such as scarring of the liver and liver cancer.
- The disease can be spread from an infected pregnant mother to her baby, through contact with the blood of an infected person, or by having sex with an infected person. It can also be spread by sharing objects, such as toothbrushes or razors.
The HBV vaccine will prevent this disease. This vaccine is given to nearly all newborns. Additional doses are given before age 18 months. If newborns are exposed to HBV before, during, or after birth, both the vaccine and a special HBV immune globulin dose are given within 12 hours of birth. The CDC recommends that all babies complete the HBV vaccine series between age 6 months and 18 months to be fully protected against HBV infection. This full series gives long-term protection against HBV and booster shots are typically not needed in people who have a healthy immune system.
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