National Poll Reveals That Over 50% Of Americans Do Not Know There Is A Vaccine For Deadly Hepatitis B Virus

Jul 27, 2015, 12:11 ET from Hepatitis B Foundation

DOYLESTOWN, Pa., July 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite the fact that hepatitis B infects 1 out of every 20 individuals (12 million people) in the United States, more than 50% of Americans are not aware that a hepatitis B vaccine even exists.

The poll, by REPASS Research and Strategic Consulting (Cincinnati, OH), found that 39% of respondents were not sure if a hepatitis B vaccine exists, and 17% believed there was none, for a total of 56%.  This despite the fact that the vaccine has been available since 1981.  Of those sampled, only 44% were aware that a vaccine was available.  The survey was conducted online between July 9-17 with a nationally balanced 1,500 sample of the U.S. adult population. 

Also of significant concern is that 54% of those questioned have not been tested for hepatitis B, a virus that can remain asymptomatic and undetected but can still be transmitted to others without the person's knowledge that he or she is infected.  Seventeen percent were not sure if they had been tested, and 29% responded that they had been tested for hepatitis B. 

"Hepatitis B is the world's most serious common liver infection, as well as the world's deadliest vaccine-preventable disease," says Timothy Block, PhD, president and co-founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation. "If every person was tested for hepatitis B and vaccinated, this urgent public health threat could be eliminated within our lifetime.  The lesson here is get tested and get vaccinated," he added.

Hepatitis B is a virus that attacks the liver and is transmitted through direct blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex, use of unsterile needles, and from an infected mother to her newborn during delivery.  In the United States, more than 2 million Americans are chronically infected and without early diagnosis and intervention, 1 in 4 individuals will die prematurely from liver failure or liver cancer. Yet, only 30% of Americans have been tested and more than 50% do not even know there is a vaccine.  The Hepatitis B Foundation is urging all adults to take a simple blood test and to get vaccinated to help eradicate this deadly virus. 

According to Rex Repass who conducted the poll, "These results are alarming.  To know that there is a vaccine available and that less than half of all adults are aware that they should be tested and vaccinated is a surprising statistic." 

July 28th marks the 6th annual World Hepatitis Day (WHD), which is an opportunity to raise awareness about the silent epidemic of hepatitis B.  Globally, 2 billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus and more than 240 million people are chronically infected.  Each year, 1 million people die from liver failure and/or liver cancer due to the deadly hepatitis B virus.  The good news is that with a cure for hepatitis C now available, the pendulum is swinging back to refocus on hepatitis B with the goal of finding a cure, and that eradication will be possible within our lifetime.

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SOURCE Hepatitis B Foundation