Advisors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended on Wednesday that all U.S. adults younger than age 60 get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Under the new policy, tens of millions of adults in the 30-to-59 age range could get their shots, protecting them against this potentially chronic liver disease.
The new recommendation aims to prevent infection among middle-aged adults with hepatitis B increasingly impacting people in their 40s and 50s in recent years.
‘We cannot eliminate hepatitis B in the U.S. without a new approach,’ said CDC scientist Dr Mark Weng.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection that can spread from person to person through blood, semen, and other body fluids.
Adults commonly catch the disease through sexual contact and needle sharing, and infected mothers can pass the virus to their newborns.
Many recent cases have been linked to the opioid epidemic.
Common symptoms include fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and abdominal pain, according to the CDC.
Symptoms vary by age. Infants and young children under age five generally tend not to show symptoms, while about one-third to one-half of older kids and adults are symptomatic.
Hepatitis B is a short-term disease for many who catch the virus, but it can become chronic – leading to long-term symptoms and potentially even liver cancer.