Unfortunately, for kids this infection plays out in a very different way. About 90% of infants infected with hepatitis B virus at birth will develop chronic hepatitis B. The risk decreases as children get older, but it is still significant. Somewhere between 20% and 50% of children with acute hepatitis B will progress to the chronic form of the disease. Compare these numbers with the much lower risks of teens and adults: less than 10% will progress from acute to chronic infection.
It has been estimated that as many as one-third of Americans with chronic hepatitis B infection were infected as infants or young children. With risks like these, clearly hepatitis B is a serious problem for our nation's children. This is why all infants should be vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine before they leave the hospital. For most people, hepatitis B infection is a minor problem. For infants, it is often a life-long complication.
For more information about hepatitis B disease and prevention, read my article Viral Hepatitis B Infection.