Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do I really need a hepatitis B vaccine?"
My doctor recommended that I get a hepatitis B vaccine, which she said would be a couple of shots some time apart. Do I really need this? I'm a healthy 27 year old adult and my insurance doesn't cover it.
Hepatitis B is a virus that is most commonly transmitted through sexual intercourse and vertically (from mother to child at birth). It can also be transmitted through exposure to blood (such as with an accidental needle stick). Transmission of the virus can cause hepatitis, meaning inflammation of the liver. This can be associated with generalized fatigue, fevers, joint pains, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Most adults that contract the disease will spontaneously clear the disease within a year, but a few will become chronic carriers of the illness (raising their risk of chronic liver disease and liver cancer). A small percentage of adults that contract the disease can develop fulminant liver failure and become very sick. Hepatitis B immunization is very effective, and is especially recommended for several different segments of the population, including health care workers, patients on hemodialysis, IV drug users, and adults that have multiple sexual partners. Your doctor can do some blood tests which can reveal your immunization status. If you have not already been vaccinated as a child (which you may have been given your age), then it would be recommended that you undergo the vaccination series now. You should discuss the vaccine and Hepatitis B with your primary care doctor for more information.
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