Despite the fact that hepatitis B affects some 12 million people in the United States, more than 50% of Americans are not aware that a hepatitis B vaccine even exists, according to a poll released today by REPASS Research and Strategic Consulting.
The poll noted 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 the 1,500 sampled, only 44% were aware that a vaccine was available.
More than half – 54% – of those questioned said they 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,” Timothy Block, PhD, president and co-founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation, said in a press release about the poll results. “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.
Officials with the foundation noted that today marks the 6th annual World Hepatitis Day, which is an opportunity to raise awareness about hepatitis B.