Hepatitis B rates down significantly in children

According to the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, rates of hepatitis B in children and young adults in the U.S. are down significantly.

The researchers at the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the CDC who recorded and analyzed this trend have attributed its cause to several factors, but predominantly to the establishment in 1991 of universal vaccination for children. 

In this study, to be published in the July 2010 edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the results were determined by examining the prevalence of hepatitis B in samples taken from the U.S. population through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994, and then again between 1999 and 2006.

The results showed that while American youth are better protected, adult rates of infection remain relatively unchanged.

U.S.-born younger adults fared better than their older or foreign-born counterparts. Cases of acute hepatitis B infection have decreased in their age group by 80 percent since 1990. The likely explanation reflects the overall significance of prevention strategies, such as improvements in the monitoring and control of the blood supply, changes in risk-taking behavior among those in high-risk groups and the targeted vaccination of high-risk individuals.

In comparison to other countries, especially those in Asia and Africa, the U.S. has a relatively low level of hepatitis B in its population overall, but it is estimated that 730,000 American adults live the disease. The researchers stressed the need to improve screening regimens to identify the chronically infected, particularly those that would show no symptoms until the onset of cirrhosis or liver disease.