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Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Infection in Newborns

By

Brenda L. Tesini

, MD, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
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Hepatitis B virus infection causes inflammation of the liver.

  • 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.

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.

Diagnosis of HBV Infection in Newborns

Prognosis of HBV Infection in Newborns

Treatment and Prevention

  • Treatment of symptoms and good nutrition

  • Vaccination

  • Sometimes immune globulin

Doctors treat the problems caused by hepatitis B virus infection. It is especially important for affected newborns to receive good nutrition.

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.

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