Between Jan. 1 and May 16, 2015, the state of Maine reported no cases of acute hepatitis B. But things have changed during the same period this year.
According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 15 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis B cases confirmed in Maine between January 1 and May 16, a rate of 1.1 cases per 100,000 persons.
The primary risk factor for new cases of acute hepatitis B in Maine in 2016 is injection drug use. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is 100 times more infectious than HIV and 10 times more infectious than hepatitis C virus. In addition, HBV can survive on open air surfaces for up to seven days and in sealed containers for up to three months. If individuals are injecting drugs, it is important that they maintain their own injection kit and do not: Share injection equipment, inject others and then inject self or inject on contaminated surfaces.
Health officials say that persons at high risk for hepatitis B should be screened and vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, if susceptible. In addition, patients diagnosed with hepatitis C should be vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.
No cost hepatitis A and B vaccine is available for high risk patients through the Maine CDC Adult Viral Hepatitis Program in 13 counties. Please contact the Viral Hepatitis Coordinator for more information: 207-287-3817.