The earliest description of hepatitis-like symptoms, like jaundice, was by Hippocrates in the fifth century BCE . However, it was not until 1883 that Lurmen recorded the first epidemic of serum hepatitis (as hepatitis B was previously known) in Germany. Shipyard workers in developed jaundice after receiving smallpox vaccines. The vaccines were derived from human lymph, and Lurmen observed that only workers who received certain batches of vaccines fell ill .
In 1943, Dr. Paul Beeson, an American physician, was the first to identify blood as one of the vehicles of transmission of the hepatitis B virus . This was a landmark discovery in the history of viral infections. The next breakthrough came in 1965. Dr. Baruch Blumberg, an American physician, discovered the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), also called the ‘Australia antigen.’
Five years later, in 1970, a complete hepatitis B virion, known as the Dane particle, was identified [5,6]. This discovery led to the development of the first plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine. It was licensed for use in the US in 1981. A recombinant hepatitis B vaccine soon replaced it in 1986 as people feared that the former could transmit live HBV and other blood-borne pathogens .
In 2016, the World Health Assembly made news with an action plan to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. The mission was to reduce the number of new chronic infections by 90% and the mortality rate by 65% .
There has been significant progress toward reaching these targets.
From 2015 – 2020, there has been an increase in global coverage of the:
- Last dose of the HBV vaccine from 82% to 85% .
- Vaccines given at birth from 38% 43%.
More regions have been following safe practices when performing blood transfusions and using syringes .