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Getting a liver panel test isn't something that comes to mind regularly for young people when they visit the doctor. Parents and physicians assume that, because people in this age group received vaccinations for certain liver-related illnesses as infants, they would not be able to develop these kinds of diseases. New research from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) shows that this coverage may not always extend as far as clinicians believe, leaving teens susceptible to various forms of hepatitis.
Researchers from the AASLD found that hepatitis B shots administered to babies were not providing protection from the illness in their teenage years. Scientists reviewed nearly 9,000 teens in the late 1980s and tracked their vaccination versus infection rate for hepatitis B, finding a connection between those whose mothers had the disease and new infection rates in children. This indicates that on top of teens and young mothers getting the illness despite vaccination protection as children, they are also passing the disease on to their own infants as well, perpetuating and strengthening the syndrome.
"Chronic hepatitis B is a major health burden that leads to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure, shortening lives and placing a huge economic drain on society," said Li-Yu Wang of Mackay Medical College, the lead writer of the study. "While infant hepatitis B vaccination is highly effective, it is not 100 percent and our study examines the long-term success of hepatitis B vaccine in a high-risk population."
Serious medical repercussions
These findings might mean that current ailments even in teens could require liver panels in order to correctly diagnose sick teenagers. Despite earlier protective measures, the activities of the individuals could still lead to infections early in life, meaning teens need to be taught how to safeguard themselves from catching the disease.
The World Health Organization reported that more than two billion people in the world currently live with hepatitis B, and that it's roughly 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. Since this form of hepatitis is spread through blood and bodily fluids, that means it's easier to contract and more common to encounter, since its virulence is well beyond other serious diseases. Teens need to learn not to share drinks or cutlery, protect cuts and not touch blood, and most of all to practice safe sex in order to avoid long-term repercussions.
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