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Hepatitis Vaccination

It is estimated that 1.1% of the population in Malaysia were infected with hepatitis B virus in 2017 and 2009.

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What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.

There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Certain sex practices can also spread HAV. Infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further HAV infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life threatening. Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with this virus. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.

Who is at risk for Hepatitis A?


Anyone who has not been vaccinated or previously infected can get infected with hepatitis A virus. In areas where the virus is widespread (high endemicity), most hepatitis A infections occur during early childhood. Risk factors include:
  • poor sanitation;
  • lack of safe water;
  • living in a household with an infected person;
  • being a sexual partner of someone with acute hepatitis A infection;
  • use of recreational drugs;
  • sex between men;
  • travelling to areas of high endemicity without being immunized.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids. HBV can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants at the time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood. Transmission may also occur through transfusions of HBV-contaminated blood and blood products, contaminated injections during medical procedures, and through injection drug use. HBV also poses a risk to healthcare workers who sustain accidental needle stick injuries while caring for infected-HBV patients. Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV

Who is at risk of chronic disease due to Hepatitis B?


The likelihood that infection becomes chronic depends on the age at which a person becomes infected. Children less than 6 years of age who become infected with the hepatitis B virus are the most likely to develop chronic infections.

In infants and children:
  • 80–90% of infants infected during the first year of life develop chronic infections; and
  • 30–50% of children infected before the age of 6 years develop chronic infections.
In adults:
  • less than 5% of otherwise healthy persons who are infected as adults will develop chronic infections; and
  • 20–30% of adults who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.