Hepatitis B is a virus that causes severe infection and may progress to cancer of the liver. Early symptoms of fatigue, muscle aches, diarrhea, yellow eyes and skin (jaundice) can progress to chronic liver inflammation or cancer. The virus spreads between people through body fluids during sexual contact, birth, or sharing of drug needles, razors or toothbrushes.
Parents can protect their child against infection by getting them vaccinated with three doses of hepatitis B vaccine. Newborns, whose mothers either are infected with hepatitis B virus or who have not been tested, should be immunized soon after birth, with two subsequent doses given at 2 and 6 months. Note: Babies whose mothers have hepatitis B also should get hepatitis B immune globulin within 12 hours of birth. The vaccine is very safe, with few side effects of soreness or low-grade fever. No child has ever died from rare allergic reactions to hepatitis B vaccine.