Hepatitis B virus can be a silent killer in a mother's body
If the mother is already diagnosed with hepatitis B infection, should the baby be vaccinated at birth? Read on to find out!
Last year, Neha Aggarwal, 35, was rushed to a local doctor for treatment of a severe bout of viral fever. After receiving an injection from the doctor, she had to be admitted to a hospital two weeks later only to be told that she had contracted hepatitis B infection. A homemaker and a mother of two, Neha could come back home only after two weeks, thanks to the low level of infection. “It could have been severe liver infection, but the doctors were able to salvage my wife’s life. She was given the vaccine again,” says Neha’s 37-year-old husband Mohit.
Although doctors advice first-time parents to get their newborns injected with hepatitis B within 24 hours of birth, this infection could be contracted in several cases. Dr Priyanka Mehta, gynaecologist, ePsyClinic.com, Delhi, says, “All unvaccinated adults at the risk for hepatitis B infection should be vaccinated. Most adults who go through liver transplants are infected by hepatitis B.” She adds that the reasons for its contraction could vary.
There has been a sudden uprise in the number of cases infected with hepatitis B in India. A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that approximately four crore to six crore in India are carriers of the virus. It has been estimated that two to five percent of India’s population may be affected by the virus. Alarmingly so, each year, one lakh patients die of viral hepatitis (B and C) in the country.
“If sexual partners of people are infected with hepatitis B, or people who inject street drugs, or have chronic liver or kidney disease, or are under 60 years of age and have diabetes could be possible carriers of the disease,” says Dr Mehta. She adds that people with jobs that expose them to human blood or other body fluids, or household contacts of people infected with hepatitis B or kidney dialysis patients and people with HIV infection could also be its prominent carriers.
In order to avoid contractions of the virus at a later stage in life, including during pregnancy, vaccines are charted at birth and at different stages during childhood.
Continue reading to know more about when to administer Hepatitis B vaccine in toddlers
Recommended stages of Hepatitis B vaccination
The hepatitis B vaccine protects the body against infection. “Around three doses of the vaccine are effective in decreasing the transmission of the virus by up to 80 to 95 per cent. This virus may cause both acute liver dysfunction and chronic liver infection which may lead to irreversible liver damage and liver cancer,” says Dr Parvinder Chawla, consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Mohali.
This is the reason why experts suggest that this vaccine should ideally be administered at birth to avoid contraction of the virus at later stages. In addition, babies can also contract the virus from their mother.
“The virus is transmitted by bodily fluids, babies can get it form the birth canal of an infected mother. A mother may not know that she has a hepatitis B infection since the virus can lie silently for many years,” says Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, gynaecologist and director of SCI Healthcare, Delhi.
In addition, if the mother is already diagnosed with the infection, the baby should be given an injection of immunoglobulins along with the hepatitis B vaccine at birth,” says Dr Sachdev.
She adds that the standard dosage schedule is at birth, at six months and then one year of age. “The vaccine can also be given when the child turns a month-old, then at two months and then six to 18 months. After this initial course, immunity testing can be done every five years and booster dose of the vaccine can be given as required,” she says.
Experts suggests the following two vaccination periods for Hepatitis B:
- Interval between the first and the second dose should be four weeks
- Interval between the second and the third dose should be five months.
When not to give Hepatitis B vaccine?
However, young parents must keep a few checkpoints in mind while letting the doctor administer these booster shots to their children:
- Do not give the vaccine if the child is ill, has a fever or any other sickness
- Do not give the booster shot if the child is born prematurely
- Do not administer the vaccine without proper consultation with your doctor who will decide the best time to vaccinate
- Do not give the vaccination if the child has developed an allergic reaction toward the vaccine or is allergic to any preservative used in the vaccine
Experts suggest that young parents should get their children vaccinated at birth. But if you haven’t done so yet, fret not. “Anyone over 18 years of age who didn’t get the vaccine when they were younger should also be vaccinated,” says Dr Mehta.
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