Hepatitis B (hep B), according to the CDC, is “a contagious virus that is transmitted through blood, blood products, and other body fluids (such as semen)… Symptoms include a sudden fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dark urine, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).”
Hepatitis B History
In 1965, Baruch Blumberg, MD, PhD, an American doctor who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1976) for his work on hepatitis B, matched a protein found in an Australian aborigine’s blood with an antibody found in an American hemophiliac. First called the “Australian antigen,” it was discovered to be the hepatitis B virus and provided a source for the vaccine created in 1969. Because the virus could not be recreated in a lab, the first vaccine was a heat-treated form of the virus. In 1981, the FDA approved Heptavax-B, a vaccine created by Maurice Hilleman, PhD. Because Heptavax-B used human serum and the fear of HIV infection was high, a new recombinant DNA vaccine, Recombivax HB, was licensed on June 23, 1986 that did not use human serum. As of July 2014, two hepatitis B vaccines are used, Engerix-B and Recombivax, as well as Twinrix (a hepatitis A and hepatitis B combination vaccine).
Below are three graphs. The first shows the number of hepatitis B cases in the United States, adults and children, from 1966 to 2013. The second graph shows the number of deaths caused by the hepatitis B virus in adults and children from 1979 to 2013. And the third graph shows the hepatitis B vaccination rates among children aged 19 to 36 months in the United States since 1995.
As of Aug. 18, 2014, the CDC recommends that children receive the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccination at birth.
Microscopic view of the hepatitis B virus
Source: Sanofi Pasteur, “Hepatitis B Virus (HBV),” www.flickr.com, Aug. 7, 2013