ENGERIX-B is a vaccine used to protect you or your child against hepatitis B infection. The vaccine works by causing your body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against this disease. ENGERIX-B can be given to adults, adolescents, children and infants.
Hepatitis B is an infectious disease, which causes the liver to become swollen (inflamed). It is caused by a virus (hepatitis B virus). The virus is found in body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or saliva of infected people. You can catch the virus if it can enter your bloodstream. Ways this can happen are through:
- injection (e.g. needlestick injury, or sharing needles for IV drug use)
- sexual intercourse
- sores, cuts or tiny wounds coming into contact with infected fluids (e.g. from a human bite, sharing razors or toothbrushes, or working with human blood or body fluids)
- an infected mother passing the virus onto her baby during or shortly after birth.
Some people infected with hepatitis B may not look or feel sick. But others will get symptoms, which may not be seen for 6 weeks to 6 months after infection. Sometimes people will only have mild flu-like symptoms, but other people can become very ill. They may be extremely tired, and have dark urine, pale faeces, yellowish skin and/or eyes (jaundice), and other symptoms possibly requiring hospitalisation.
Most adults fully recover from the disease. But some people, particularly children, who may not have had symptoms can remain infected. They are called hepatitis B virus carriers. Hepatitis B carriers can infect others throughout their lives.
Babies infected with hepatitis B at birth almost always become carriers. Often they do not show symptoms, and seem healthy for many years. However, after 30, 40 or 50 years they can become sick and develop symptoms.
For all chronic hepatitis B carriers there is a risk of serious liver disease, such as cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver cancer.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis B. Therefore vaccination is the best way to help protect against infection and possible serious long-term disease.
ENGERIX-B will not protect against hepatitis caused by other agents or viruses (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis C, hepatitis E). If a person is already infected with the hepatitis B virus at the time of vaccination, ENGERIX-B may not prevent the disease in these people.