Newborns may become infected at birth or rarely after birth.
Newborns who develop symptoms have jaundice, lethargy, and failure to thrive.
The diagnosis is typically based on blood tests.
Children are at risk of liver problems later in life.
The hepatitis B vaccine and sometimes hepatitis B immune globulin are given to newborns to protect them against the infection.
(See also Overview of Infections in Newborns Overview of Infections in Newborns Infections occur at all ages but are a great cause for concern in newborns because newborns, especially preterm ones, have an underdeveloped immune system and are more susceptible to infection... read more and Overview of Hepatitis Overview of Hepatitis Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. (See also Overview of Acute Viral Hepatitis and Overview of Chronic Hepatitis.) Hepatitis is common throughout the world. Hepatitis can be Acute (short-lived) read more .)
Hepatitis B is a type of hepatitis virus Overview of Acute Viral Hepatitis Acute viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, generally meaning inflammation caused by infection with one of the five hepatitis viruses. In most people, the inflammation begins suddenly... read more newborns can contract and is a cause of great concern in newborns.
The infection occurs during delivery if the mother is infected. However, newborns may become infected after birth from other sources, such as the mother's saliva, stool, urine, or breast milk.
Symptoms of HBV Infection in Newborns
Most newborns who have hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection have no symptoms at birth but continue to carry the infection in their bodies.
Many newborns born to women who have acute hepatitis B during pregnancy have a low birth weight, regardless of whether they are infected.
Infrequently, infected newborns develop acute hepatitis B Hepatitis B, Acute Acute hepatitis B is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus and that lasts from a few weeks up to 6 months. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood or other... read more , which is usually mild and goes away without treatment. They develop jaundice Jaundice in the Newborn Jaundice is a yellow color to the skin and/or eyes caused by an increase in bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellow substance formed when hemoglobin (the part of red blood cells... read more (a yellow color of the skin or eyes), lethargy, failure to thrive Failure to Thrive in Children Failure to thrive is a delay in weight gain and physical growth that can lead to delays in development and maturation. Medical disorders and a lack of proper nutrition are causes of failure... read more , a swollen abdomen, and clay-colored stools. Rarely, the infection is severe and causes death.
Chronic liver disease (such as chronic hepatitis Overview of Chronic Hepatitis Chronic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that lasts at least 6 months. Common causes include hepatitis B and C viruses and certain drugs. Most people have no symptoms, but some have vague... read more or cirrhosis Cirrhosis of the Liver Cirrhosis is the widespread distortion of the liver's internal structure that occurs when a large amount of normal liver tissue is permanently replaced with nonfunctioning scar tissue. The scar... read more ) may develop but usually does not cause symptoms until young adulthood.
Diagnosis of HBV Infection in Newborns
Doctors do blood tests to look for the hepatitis B virus as well as antibodies to the virus. Doctors also do blood tests to determine whether a liver disease has developed (see Liver Blood Tests Liver Blood Tests Liver tests are blood tests that represent a noninvasive way to screen for the presence of liver disease (for example, viral hepatitis in donated blood) and to measure the severity and progress... read more ).
Prognosis for HBV Infection in Newborns
Although the long-term prognosis for chronic hepatitis B virus infection cannot be predicted, it is known that chronic infection early in life increases the risk of later liver disease including chronic hepatitis Overview of Chronic Hepatitis Chronic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that lasts at least 6 months. Common causes include hepatitis B and C viruses and certain drugs. Most people have no symptoms, but some have vague... read more , cirrhosis Cirrhosis of the Liver Cirrhosis is the widespread distortion of the liver's internal structure that occurs when a large amount of normal liver tissue is permanently replaced with nonfunctioning scar tissue. The scar... read more , end-stage liver disease requiring transplantation Liver Transplantation Liver transplantation is the surgical removal of a healthy liver or sometimes a part of a liver from a living person and then its transfer into a person whose liver no longer functions. (See... read more , and liver cancer Primary Liver Cancers Primary liver cancers are cancers that originate in the liver. The most common is hepatocellular carcinoma (hepatoma). At first, liver cancer usually causes only vague symptoms (such as weight... read more .
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment of symptoms and good nutrition
Sometimes immune globulin
Doctors treat the problems caused by hepatitis B virus infection. It is especially important for affected newborns to receive good nutrition.
Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B Vaccine The hepatitis B vaccine helps protect against hepatitis B and its complications ( chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer). Generally, hepatitis B is more serious than hepatitis A and... read more is one of the routine vaccinations Childhood Vaccination Schedules Vaccination protects children against many infectious diseases. Vaccines contain either noninfectious components of bacteria or viruses or whole forms of these organisms that have been weakened... read more recommended for all children. All newborns, whether or not infected, are given the first dose of the hepatitis B virus vaccine before they are discharged from the hospital.
Newborns born to an infected mother are also given hepatitis B immune globulin, a preparation of antibodies against hepatitis B. The first dose of the vaccine and the immune globulin are given within 12 hours of birth.