| Thu, Sep 10, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Diabetes and Hepatitis B: Should You Be Vaccinated?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

hepatitis-bHepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by a number of things, including viral infection. Vaccines are available against some forms of hepatitis.

“Hepatitis” is also the name of a family of viruses that affect the liver. The most common are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

People with diabetes need to be aware of hepatitis B in particular. They have a higher risk of infection than the general population, according to the American Diabetes Association. Hepatitis B infection may lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis and even death.

Hepatitis B can be spread by contact with just a tiny bit of infected blood. And the virus can live on surfaces outside the body for up to a week.

Important diabetes self-care habits like finger-stick blood tests and insulin injections can create opportunities for infection to happen. Blood glucose monitors, lancets, test strips, insulin pens and needles may all harbor the hepatitis B virus. Even dried blood can spread infection.

The spread of hepatitis B is confounded by the fact that a person can be infected and not know it. Prevention is a full-time job since you can never know when you may be exposed, including in health care facilities.

To help prevent hepatitis B:

  • Don’t share diabetes equipment with others.
  • Keep diabetes equipment clean. Store it properly.
  • Use proper testing and injection techniques.
  • Be mindful of infection control practices in doctor’s offices and other health care facilities. Speak up if anything seems questionable.

Vaccination against hepatitis B may provide partial, if not full, protection. The vaccine is given in three shots over a period of six months. All three shots are needed for long-term protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults with diabetes ages 19 to 59 should be vaccinated. Adults 60 and older may also benefit from vaccination.

Medicare Part B covers the hepatitis B vaccination for people with diabetes. The shots cost nothing as long as the doctor or other qualified health care provider giving them accepts Medicare assignment.

Discuss the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated with your doctor or another health care provider. If you think you’ve already been vaccinated, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to make sure.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Hepatitis B: Get more information from the American Diabetes Association.

Hepatitis B Vaccination: Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medicare.gov: Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare.


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