May 14, 2012

Protect yourself from Hepatitis B

Member for

5 months 3 weeks

Are you at risk for getting Hepatitis B? Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. Approximately 2,000–4,000 people die every year from Hepatitis B-related liver disease.

The Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. People can also get infected by coming in contact with a contami­nated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days. Hepatitis B can range from being a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.

The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting the Hepatitis B vaccine, which is usually given as 3 shots over a 6-month period. You need to get all 3 shots for complete protection.

Medicare covers a series of shots for free if you’re at medium or high risk for Hepatitis B. Your risk increases if you have hemophilia (a rare bleeding disorder in which the blood doesn't clot normally), End-Stage Renal Disease, or certain other conditions. You may also be at a higher risk if you live with someone who has Hepatitis B or if you’re a healthcare worker and have frequent contact with blood or body fluids. Ask your doctor if these shots are right for you.

May is Hepatitis Awareness month. To find out more about preventing and treating Hepatitis B, visit the Centers for Disease Control.

Also, watch our short YouTube video about Medicare’s efforts to prevent and treat hepatitis.