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1 in 5 At-Risk U.S. Babies Doesn't Get Hepatitis B Vaccine
Date:3/8/2010

ection, which causes from 2,000 to 4,000 deaths annually. Children can become infected during delivery or from household contact with those who are infected, according to background information in the study. The virus spreads through blood or other body fluids.

While many people who contract hepatitis B are able to eventually clear their bodies of the infection, some develop chronic hepatitis, which eventually can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Children are even more vulnerable to the disease. About 90 percent of children who contract hepatitis B go on to have chronic infections, many of whom will have liver disease by the time they're in their 20s, said Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, chairman of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Research Center at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. About 25 percent of them will die prematurely, according to the article.

The CDC recommends infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and then receive booster shots at one and six months.

Pregnant women should also be tested for hepatitis B as part of their prenatal care, which is something not all women receive. In those situations, women should be tested upon admission to the hospital, Bromberg said.

Not all hospitals do so routinely, however. Only 67 percent of hospitals had a policy calling for all newborns to receive the hepatitis vaccine, while 63 percent of hospitals said they had a policy of testing women upon admission if there was no documentation of a hepatitis B test.

Nearly 81 percent of hospitals said they would give exposed infants the hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours and about 77 percent said they would give the immunoglobulin within 12 hours.

"The more the hospital paid attention, the better the outcomes were," Bromberg said. "The fact that only about 73 percent of hospitals even look at the results of the hepatitis test is pretty atrocious. That means 27 percent of hospitals don't even loo
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