New York Making Strides Against Hepatitis B Infections in Newborns

Health Department Recognizes 13 Hospitals for Achieving Outstanding Vaccination Rates

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 24, 2010) - The State Department of Health (DOH) has recognized 13 hospitals across New York for achieving high hepatitis B virus immunization rates for newborn infants, part of a comprehensive state effort to ensure that at least 90 percent of newborns receive hepatitis B vaccinations within 12 hours of birth.

Hepatitis B infection is a major cause of acute and chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. An estimated 3,000 people die each year from chronic liver disease associated with viral hepatitis.

Approximately 24,000 U.S. women infected with chronic hepatitis B virus give birth each year, including many who are unaware they are infected. As a result, babies may be exposed to the virus at birth through perinatal transmission (from mother to infant during birth). Babies infected at birth have a greater than 90 percent chance of becoming chronically infected with hepatitis B, and one of every four infected babies will die of liver cancer or liver failure as adults.

"We can prevent children from being infected with the hepatitis B virus if we vaccinate them at birth," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "New York State has made hepatitis B vaccination part of a hospital's routine treatment for newborns, which can prevent up to 95 percent of perinatal infections. We are pleased that hospitals are providing a hepatitis B safety net for newborns and we will continue to work with them to ensure that all children begin life healthy."

Under New York State Public Health Law, all pregnant women must be screened for the hepatitis B virus and infants born to infected mothers must receive the hepatitis vaccine and hepatitis immune globulin within 12 hours of birth.

In 2006, New York established standards of care that call for all newborns to receive routine hepatitis B vaccinations at birth. This was done to improve protections for infants and young children who are not able to fight off the virus as well as adults. Hospitals that have at least a 90 percent newborn vaccination rate and achieve 100 percent compliance with hepatitis B testing of pregnant women, treatment of babies born to infected mothers, and reporting requirements are awarded a Certificate of Excellence from DOH.

The following hospitals have earned a Certificate of Excellence (by year awarded):

  • Brooks Memorial, Chautauqua County (2009)
  • Catskill Regional Medical Center, Sullivan County (2009)
  • Auburn Memorial Hospital, Cayuga County (2009)
  • Glens Falls Hospital, Warren County (2009)
  • St. Mary's of Amsterdam Hospital, Montgomery County (2009)
  • Crouse Hospital, Onondaga County (2010)
  • Bon Secours Memorial Hospital, Orange County (2010)
  • St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital of Newburgh, Orange County (2010)
  • Women's Christian Association Hospital, Chautauqua County (2010)
  • Cortland Regional Medical Center, Cortland County (2010)
  • Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital, Livingston County(2010)
  • Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley, Ulster County (2010)
  • Rome Memorial Hospital, Oneida County (2010)

The percentage of newborn babies vaccinated for hepatitis B within 12 hours of birth rose from 70.8 percent in 2008 to 75.4 percent in 2009. The State's goal is to achieve a 90 percent hospital vaccination rate.

To effectively protect children from hepatitis B infection, they should receive vaccinations in three doses: the first within the first 12 hours after birth, the second at one month, and the third at six months. A child should be tested between the ages of 9 months and 18 months to verify that the immunization was successful.

Additional information about hepatitis B is available at: http://www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/communicable/hepatitis/hbvinfo.htm .