Hepatitis B is a highly contagious virus that infects the liver in all age groups. It is a "silent disease" that infects many people without making them feel sick. Misdiagnosis can occur because the symptoms are like the "flu." The Hepatitis B virus is found in bodily fluids such as blood, semen and vaginal secretions, and can be transmitted sexually. Thousands of victims are adolescents and young adults. Hepatitis B kills over 5,000 Americans every year. Some people carry Hepatitis B unknowingly, and unintentionally infect others for a long time. Hepatitis B makes you lose your appetite, feel extremely tired, have stomach cramps, and vomit. If you are more seriously ill, your skin and eyes may turn yellow with jaundice and you may need hospitalization. Hepatitis B can also lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death in many of those afflicted.


Visit the Web site, Immunization Action Coalition, and view their "Vaccine Information Statements" for further information about Hepatitis B vaccine.


The Spread of Hepatitis B

The virus is found in the blood and body fluids of infected people and can be spread through sexual contact, the sharing of needles or razors, and from mother to infant during childbirth. The Hepatitis B virus is hardy and can live outside the body for several days.


People at Risk for Hepatitis B
  • Sexually active people who do not use barrier protection or who are monogamous but have a partner at risk for Hepatitis B infection
  • People who use street drugs/share needles
  • People who practice tattooing or body piercing with unsterilized equipment
  • Adolescents with risk taking behaviors
  • International travelers who visit endemic areas
  • People whose jobs potentially expose them to human blood or body fluids
  • People who live with others who are chronic carriers of the Hepatitis B virus
  • Children of immigrants or parents of adopted children from Asia, Africa, the Amazon Basin in South America, the Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe, or the Middle East


Hepatitis B Vaccine (HBV)

All people who are at risk for Hepatitis B infection should be immunized. Hepatitis B infection is increasing so rapidly in the United States that the Hepatitis B vaccination series is now a requirement for entry into kindergarten.

The vaccine is extremely safe and effective. You cannot get Hepatitis B from the vaccine. The most common side effect is soreness at the site of injection. The benefits of being vaccinated outweigh the risks. Hepatitis B is the only Sexually Transmitted Disease for which there is a vaccine that offers protection.

The Hepatitis B vaccine is administered in a series of three shots. It is best to get the second vaccination one month after the first. The third vaccination should be administered six months after the first shot (five months after the second).


Where to Receive the Hepatitis B Vaccine

Students can get vaccinated for Hepatitis B at Student Health Services. Hepatitis B vaccination is also available (at varying costs) through private providers and at the Sonoma County Public Health Department as well as at various Community Health Centers. Registered students that are 18 years old or younger may receive the Hepatitis B vaccine free of charge at Student Health Services through a special County vaccination program. Registered students that are 18 years old or younger may receive the Hepatitis B vaccine free of charge at Student Health Services through a special County vaccination program.


Hepatitis B Vaccine Fee

See Charges

If you have private insurance coverage, the cost may vary. Some insurance companies have started to cover the costs for certain age groups to become immunized through their private health care provider. Immunosuppressed individuals have a better chance of getting coverage. In general, you should check with your insurance company about coverage.


For more information about the various kinds of hepatitis, you may visit the Centers for Disease Control.


For additional information, please contact Cindy Dickinson at cdickinson@santarsoa.edu.