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Hepatitis B cases decrease among youth

/ Source: The Associated Press

Cases of hepatitis B among children and adolescents have dropped by 89 percent in the past decade, thanks to a vaccination program against the virus, the government said Thursday.

A total of 13,829 youngsters had hepatitis B in the United States between 1990 and 2002, the period of the study. The rate for that group dropped from 3.03 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 0.34 per 100,000 in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A government recommendation that all infants get hepatitis B vaccinations was put in place in 1991. The program was expanded in 1995 to 11- and 12-year-olds and in 1999 to all children.

The hepatitis B attacks the liver. It can cause scarring of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death. The virus is transmitted by blood or other body fluids through sex or shared needles, or from mother to baby during birth.