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Georgia is Helping Stop Perinatal Hepatitis B Infection

September 4, 2013

Originally published May 14, 2012

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 800 infants are born to hepatitis B-infected women in Georgia each year, placing them at risk of developing perinatal hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection that can lead to liver cancer and even death. Only half of these infants are reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). Georgia medical providers and public health districts play a vital role in identifying hepatitis B-infected pregnant women and preventing disease transmission.

The Georgia Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program conducts surveillance to identify hepatitis B-infected pregnant women in each health district. Pregnant women are enrolled in the program during early pregnancy and receive case management throughout their infant's first year of life. Each public health district has a perinatal hepatitis B case manager who is responsible for tracking local cases. Case managers educate obstetricians during pregnancy, ensure newborns receive post-exposure prophylaxis at birth, complete the hepatitis B vaccine series by six months of age and complete hepatitis B post-vaccination testing between nine and 18 months of age. Case managers concurrently track three birth cohorts at all times. The goal of the program is to stop the transmission of hepatitis B virus from mother to child.

The program has recently improved case management capabilities by introducing a web-based tracking system in the State Electronic Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. As a result, the program has seen an increased number of completed cases throughout the districts. Between 2009 and 2010 tracked birth cohorts, there was a 23 percent increase in the proportion of tracked cases among the number of infants completing both hepatitis B vaccination and post-vaccination testing.  

Tracy Kavanaugh, Georgia's Perinatal Hepatitis B Program coordinator, attributes the increase to the dedication of the district case managers. 

"Many of the district perinatal hepatitis B case managers wear multiple hats," said Kavanaugh. "They balance their many duties to provide case management because they genuinely care about these women and their infants. Their hard work makes Georgia's [program] successful."

May is recognized nationally as Hepatitis Awareness Month. As part of Hepatitis Awareness Month, the progam has collaborated with the Department of Public Health's Communications Division to develop educational materials targeting providers.  The poster, A Pediatric Guide:  Caring for Infants Born to Hepatitis-B Infected Mothers, is a quick reference guide that describes hepatitis B vaccination and testing. For additional information, please contact the Georgia Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program at (404) 651-5196.